Healthcare remains the top area of investment in artificial intelligence as measured by venture capital deal flow.[1] Artificial intelligence is what enables a digital device or “robot” to see and recognize objects or solve a problem that requires a level of intelligence. The primary aim of artificial intelligence applications within the medical field is to analyze relationships between prevention or treatment techniques and patient outcomes[2]. Programs with artificial intelligence are already developed and tested in many practices such as: medical examinations, treatment diagnosis and protocol development, drug evolution, personalized medicine, patient monitoring and care, etc. World renowned medical institutions and technology companies like the Mayo Clinic, National Health Service, IBM and Google have all created solutions to a variety of problems that are currently used in the industry. For example, IBM works with CVS Health on artificial intelligence applications on chronic disease treatment with Johnson & Johnson on analysis of scientific papers to find new connections for drug development.[3]

Hitting Home with Client Care, Literally

With new strides happening in the healthcare industry, people’s entire medical histories will be accessible to physicians, privacy protected and available to a variety of entities ranging from clinics to specialty hospitals. The result will be more beneficial doctor’s visits for the patient. This revolution will result in more widespread access to healthcare because if the patient is unable to or uninterested in visiting a clinic in person, they will be able to contact their healthcare provider on a smartphone, send a picture of video of their condition, and a computer will read the image or video and recommend how to proceed. Due to machine learning, artificial intelligence is better at pattern recognition than the human eye or brain so this avenue will result in improved patient care.

People with chronic conditions will have the option of in-home care by medical professionals who will virtually check-in with the patient. Healthcare professionals will have the ability to chat with remotely about data that they’ve received from implantable, wearable or external sensors. Those sensors will be constantly monitored by robots with artificial intelligence who will double as caregivers. With artificial intelligence integration, people who are sick will receive care for a smaller cost in a more relaxed setting.

What Happens When at Home Care Isn’t Enough?

            Hospitals will limit themselves to the diagnosis of rare or complex conditions or intensive surgeries. The goal is for hospitals to no longer have a designated ICU because every room will be a “self-contained ICU”[4]. Each room will have the ability to connect with remote specialists through built-in cameras for examinations, which will incur less expense for the patient as they will no longer have to travel to meet with the specialist. Hospital staffing ratios will vary according to the individual patient’s need as determined by artificial intelligence risk-monitoring and treatment algorithms. Physicians will also receive aid with diagnosis and evidence-based treatment by cognitive computing systems like IBM’s Watson [5].

Will It All Be Rainbows and Butterflies?

While artificial intelligence prevents many errors in the medical field, it is also causing new kinds of mistakes that the industry has not experienced before. An example of this is an overdose case at the University of California, San Francisco where doctors delivered a massive overdose of antibiotic to a 16-year-old patient. Though the error was safely remedied, the lesson was clear: there’s still a great deal of progress that artificial intelligence can make in the healthcare industry.[6]

Artificial intelligence is continuously thinking, processing and updating itself to ensure productivity, but that does not always mean that it will make the correct decision. Entirely remote patient care, a universal database for medical records and having every patient room at a hospital be an ICU isn’t going to happen tomorrow. That doesn’t mean that this type of technology boom is thirty years away either. There is no concrete number of years until this artificial intelligence integration happens, but it has so much potential and I believe this integration will reform healthcare completely, for the betterment of society.

[1] CB Insights Artificial Intelligence report. 28 June 2016.

[2] Coiera, E. (1997). Guide to medical informatics, the internet and telemedicine. Chapman & Hall, Ltd.

[3] Spear, Andrew. “From Cancer to Consumer Tech: A Look Inside IBM’s Watson Health Strategy.” Fortune, 05 Apr. 2015. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.

[4] Buchman, Tim. “The Smarter ICU.” Emory Medicine Magazine. Emory University , June 2015. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.

[5] Weber, David. “12 Ways Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Health Care.” H&HN. American Hospital Association, 28 Sept. 2015. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

[6] Miliard, Mike. “Q&A: Robert Wachter on health IT’s ‘hope, hype and harm’” Healthcare IT News. HIMSS Media, 02 Apr. 2015. 3 Mar. 2017.