AI and Healthcare

By Amy Hagen

Take me to your leader – we come in peace! 

Well, this month’s topic isn’t quite about aliens, but it is about another form of intelligence that you might have seen in the news recently. AI, or artificial intelligence, has been all the rage as it streamlines business processes and creates art in a flash (often with weird fingers). The strength (and weakness) of AI is being tested in every industry you can think of, and healthcare is no different. Let’s look at some of the, admittedly speculative, ways that AI may begin to impact the way you receive care.

There’s no way around it – data has become increasingly important in healthcare applications. The faster that data can be sorted through the faster that appropriate care decisions can be made. Possibly the greatest argument for the use of AI in healthcare is the speed with which data can now be analyzed, distilled, and then applied. Predicting outcomes and analyzing treatments in certain scenarios will certainly be a place that AI shines.
Healthcare isn’t all diagnoses and surgeries; there is a significant amount of administrative and clerical work that goes into the healthcare process. With AI automation, healthcare systems can make these tasks, like transcriptions or patient data entry, faster! Not only does this speed up your care, but there is also a projected $18 billion in savings for the healthcare industry as a result of these systems.
According to Forbes, two-thirds of the global population does not have access to surgical treatment. One exciting AI possibility is pairing the technology with advanced robotic systems to reach a larger population by broadening what surgeons can do and how they can do it. While this aspect of AI is particularly science-fiction sounding, the future possibilities can be tremendous! 

However, not all associated with AI is a bright, futuristic utopia. Removing the human element, even to a limited degree, can have far-reaching and unintended consequences. Questions of ethics and reliability are at the forefront here as the wider medical community debates likely hypotheticals, such as who is liable in the event of malpractice due to AI error? 

Furthermore, trust among patient and provider is crucial to healthcare, and while some providers may look forward to using AI to help their patients, the same isn’t always true of the recipients. According to recent data from the Pew Research Center, 60% of people surveyed would feel uncomfortable if their provider relied on AI for their care, and 33% said AI would lead to worse outcomes for them as patients. Additionally, 75% of U.S. adults say that use of AI is moving too fast before understanding the risks.

As said before, most of what we are predicting about AI is just that – predictions. While nothing is set in stone, the advancements brought to healthcare by artificial intelligence have the potential to change the way care is delivered and received for the better - if we use them appropriately! 

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