Artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare

Artificial intelligence, sometimes called machine intelligence or machine learning, is demonstrated by a machine, compared to natural intelligence as displayed by most humans and animals.

Robotics and AI in healthcare

AI has sent waves across the healthcare industry, to the extent that there has been debate as to whether AI doctors will eventually replace human physicians. There are already a number of partially autonomous robots used with in a healthcare setting; specifically, surgical robots that assist surgeons with some routine operations. They offer increased precision, which allows surgeons to create smaller incisions, resulting in less invasive surgery and a faster recovery time for patients.

There are a number of different technologies in healthcare that already have an element of AI, such as pacemakers and implantable defibrillators that jump into action when they receive key signs that they are needed by the body.

Cardiologist, Jessica Mega, states that “Patients are already seeing this intersection between technology and healthcare, we’re hitting an inflation point”.

Google’s investment in AI

Google’s push into AI in the healthcare sector is a natural evolution for an organisation that has made billions of dollars from creating algorithms that understand and learn a user’s intent when searching on the internet.

Google and their sister companies are making a huge investment in the field. This will have  potentially life-changing implications for everyone who interacts with Google, which is over a billion people.

Google’s AI ventures are suspected to have cost them upwards of $1bn and includes software that can diagnose diabetic retinopathy (blindness caused by diabetes) and surgical robots that learn from each operation.

The future of AI in healthcare

There are a number of different applications for AI in healthcare. Combining deep scientific research, and the gathering of genetics, neurological, environmental and clinical data, researchers are able to understand complexities in diseases and the diagnostic process. This will enable them to identify relevant markers to build prediction models and algorithms that can offer patients more effective healthcare.

A huge amount of information is stored electronically in hospitals and healthcare centres, and it would take a machine years to process and analyse it all. However, the Baseline project run by Verily (sister company of Google), Duke University and Stanford Medicine wants to recruit 10,000 people to donate their real-time health data. This will take the form of heart scans, blood tests, skin swabs and stress tests.

Doctors and scientists will be comparing data across all participants to identify patterns in the health data, with the aim of developing software algorithms that learn the early warning signs of illness and disease to help prevent sickness. This is a game-changer in the healthcare industry that will lead to  longer, healthier lives for everyone.