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Three ways AI will change healthcare in the next decade

Looking forward, there is no doubt that AI will continue to take centre stage in global healthcare initiatives

Although artificial intelligence (AI) has been influencing healthcare for years, 2020 firmly solidified its position as an indispensable part of the industry’s ongoing evolution.

However, one question still remains: how is the power of this technology helping to stop a global pandemic in its tracks and shield people from its devastating effects?

So far, its performance has been promising. Not only has AI enabled policymakers and frontline health workers to trace and limit the spread of Covid-19, but it has also accelerated the process of developing effective vaccines.

Looking forward, there is no doubt that AI will continue to take centre stage in global healthcare initiatives. Our reliance on artificial intelligence is reflected in the technology’s growing dominance in the financial landscape: the global AI in healthcare market size is projected to grow from $4.9bn in 2020 to reach a whopping $45.2bn by 2026.

In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) has demonstrated its commitment to pushing the frontiers of AI by placing it at the heart of its innovation strategy. Indeed, the NHS Long Term Plan includes several commitments to help frontline staff leverage AI in their day-to-day roles.

With this in mind, here are three ways that the technology is set to transform healthcare over the next decade.

Introducing the predictive power of AI

They say that prevention is better than cure. However, healthcare today is still largely geared towards treating illnesses, rather than focusing on preventative measures.

Recent advances in medical research and technology mean that we have become significantly better at diagnosing problems in their early stages and prescribing the right treatment.

However, while the progress has been immense, we are still largely limited to responding to problems once they present themselves.

Wearable technology, for instance, is being used to help diabetes sufferers manage their blood sugar levels in an effort to prevent long- term complications. But what if we could predict with great accuracy if an individual is at risk of contracting a disease, and prevent it from even surfacing?

In the decade to come, AI and predictive analytics will help people understand the factors that make them more predisposed to suffering from certain illnesses. Algorithms are specifically designed to extract data from a variety of sources; in this case, AI will be able to leverage information from health records, wearables, genetic tests and socioeconomic factors in order to establish a holistic view of a person’s health. It can then create a disease risk profile and suggest personalised interventions that might limit a person’s susceptibility to given diseases.

AI-enabled solutions will also enhance patient engagement in their own care, giving them the knowledge that they need to take their health into their own hands. The ability to make proactive changes might ultimately prevent people from having to seek complicated treatment further down the line.

Streamlining the delivery of healthcare

The growing use of big data and AI will also transition us to an era of connected, more efficient care. It is no secret that health services struggle with operational inefficiencies, whether that is a shortage of clinicians or poorly managed patient flow. Tech solutions are desperately needed to streamline operations and reduce costs.

University College Hospital London has created an algorithm to try to combat two of the biggest problems facing the NHS today – wasted resources and prolonged waiting times. By using records from 22,000 appointments, the system was able to identify 90% of those patients who would fail to show up to their appointments. It was estimated that utilising AI in this way could save the NHS a significant £2-3 per appointment.

Improved data collection and analytics will also aid tremendously in the complex logistics of delivering quality health services. The unparalleled ability of AI to sift through huge volumes of data will undoubtedly expose the administrative challenges that are standing in the way of delivering quality healthcare. What’s more, such insights will enable hospital administrators to find ways to optimise performance, drive productivity and improve the use of existing resources – thereby ultimately improving the overall standard of hospitals.

Another simple example highlights the potential of AI in this domain. A recent study found that only 3% of NHS histopathology departments actually have enough staff to meet clinical demand. This has a direct and substantial knock- on effect on the ability to deliver a high standard of care, and means that patients suffer delays in receiving appointments and results.

Integrating AI solutions would both speed up and simplify access to information, helping specialists to optimise their workflow and treat more patients. Automating administrative processes will also relieve practitioners from this heavy burden, making it much easier for them to manage referrals, schedule patient appointments (and predict no-shows), and make preparations for upcoming exams and consultations.

A new way of learning

Importantly, it is not just patients who will benefit from AI in the coming decade. Clinicians, too, will reap the rewards of having on-demand knowledge at their fingertips.

Traditionally, healthcare practitioners have been pressured to remain up-to-date with the latest medical studies and data sets. Thus, they dedicate a lot of time to researching and memorising information, both in early training and in ongoing efforts to maintain their skills. This is a mammoth task, given the speed at which information becomes outdated. For example, PwC has noted that for a skin specialist, there are 11,000 new dermatology articles published every year. Meanwhile, 80% of the data available is unstructured – meaning that it is not contained in an easily accessible database.

Healthcare providers need a new way to find the information they require within the swathes of data available to them.Over the coming years, AI will play a vital role in helping medical practitioners to stay on top of changing industry trends. Powerful AI algorithms can automatically assimilate all the data that might be helpful in a given context, extract the most relevant information and present it to clinicians in an easily digestible format.

The advent of natural speech means that doctors will even be able to ask the AI questions verbally and receive accurate responses as though they were seeking help from a mentor. Thanks to machine learning capabilities, AI will also be able to learn from previous interactions and continually adjust to meet the users’ learning needs.

Positively, AI-enabled training platforms will enable practitioners to engage in continuous learning that is personal to their own individual requirements and learning style. Even better, they will be able to engage in training at any given time or place: with sophisticated solutions easily accessible from smartphones, tablets and laptops, practitioners will benefit from being able to easily brush up on their knowledge through quick catch- up sessions.

Ultimately, the integration of AI solutions within healthcare will deliver better patient outcomes and enable clinicians to focus on the more human component of their job – delivering primary care to patients. Technology is a key driver in changing the face of healthcare, and it will be exciting to see how AI will complement those working on the front lines to improve global standards of care.

Nikolas Kairinos is the chief executive officer and founder of Soffos, the world’s first AI-powered KnowledgeBot, and is also the founder of Fountech.ai

7th January 2021

Nikolas Kairinos is the chief executive officer and founder of Soffos, the world’s first AI-powered KnowledgeBot, and is also the founder of Fountech.ai

7th January 2021

From: Healthcare

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