Advances in computational sciences and data collection methods have brought us to an exciting new era of technology. Exciting new applications of AI in healthcare paint a bright future for everything from early-detection to late-stage treatments. You don’t have to understand how these new technologies work to appreciate them!
What’s Artificial Intelligence?
Technical subjects such as computer science often have their vocabulary cannibalized by marketers and press releases. Just because a computer does something doesn’t mean it’s AI. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance it’s not.
At its core, artificial intelligence (AI) is the pursuit of designing machines to exhibit human-like intelligence. Maybe that’s responding in kind to a question, drawing an interpretive piece of art, or beating a Grandmaster of Chess. These are things considered of a human intelligence.
AI is an umbrella term used to describe many different fields of computer science
Further down the path of computer science, still technically within the bounds of AI by most definitions, we find disciplines such as Machine Learning and Deep Learning. These are more mimetic of human intelligence in how they process data than their outputs.
For example, Google uses Deep Learning to return the most relevant search results to you. Google’s search index may be analyzed in such a way to simulate how the human mind processes data—but that’s where the train stops. No human can handle that much data after all.
AI in Healthcare
Do you recall seeing movies portraying a future where injuries are healed quickly by machines or full body scans quickly make complex diagnosis? These are the pursuits scientists are endeavoring to reach. We’re not even close to having a magic heal-all-cure-all machine just yet—but we’re working on it! Until we reach that Golden Age of health care, here’s some of the most exciting new examples of AI in healthcare that we’re aware of.
Varying applications relying on radiology are used to diagnose many health issues. From cancer and heart attacks to brain scans and broken bones—radiology plays a huge role in modern medicine. AI is helping doctors identify things on x-rays and MRIs that might not be clear to the naked eye. AI is also helping enhance the resolution of x-rays to make them easier to interpret. Already, we’re seeing AI out performing human radiologists in the detection of certain diseases.
In many cases, communication between doctor and patient can be compromised. Reading the mind of another human has been characteristic of many Sci-Fi plots over the years but hardly approaching reality. Recent developments in the field of Neuroscience have shown that translating brain waves directly to audible speech is now possible. While doctors aren’t quite reading their patients minds just yet, they’re certainly getting closer to being able to do so!
Biometric Patient Identification
Hospitals can be nightmares, for all sorts of reasons. One of the lesser-known is the difficulty of managing a site-wide patient-identification system. Nurses must sign, verbally confirm, re-sign, confirm with someone else, visually re-confirm, and do all sorts of time-wasting things when administering medicine.
It sucks, but it’s a good thing. Misidentification leads to a serious number of deaths each year in the US alone. These painful systems of checking and re-checking a patients identity help avoid disaster. Still, it sucks for patients and nurses alike. Biometric sensors aren’t necessarily the epitome of AI but newer systems with less potential for error rely on large datasets and deep learning to analysis and identification.
Gut Health & Our Collective Microbiome
Modern science is quickly revealing that bacteria found throughout our bodies, particularly in our digestive tracts, play a tremendous role in our health. From energy levels to cognitive performance—bacteria seem to affect everything. The trouble is—we still aren’t sure quite how they do so!
Some of the more well-studied bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus or members of the Bifidobacterium family have given up some of their mysteries to scientists. They help synthesize vitamins, lower inflammation, and even stabilize neurotransmitters. That’s what we know they likely do anyway, there’s likely to be plenty more. These are the species common in consumer probiotics.
The hurdle in understanding the role these bacteria play in human health is that there are so dang many of them! In fact, there are so many that it’s practical to use scientific notation to describe how many bacteria inhabit our bodies (1014). We might not be able to detail what each species does for millenia but, with AI, researchers are edging closer to finding patterns between bacterial balance and health conditions.
Artificial Intelligence is one of the highest-funded and most popular fields of scientific study right now. Many are calling it the next Space Race. As researchers pursuit the boundaries of what’s possible with AI in healthcare expect to see incredible advances in both diagnosis and treatment options for many health conditions.