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Artificial Intelligence in Health Care

February 9, 2018

How is Artificial Intelligence disrupting and changing how we approach health care?

There may never be a day where science and technology can replace doctors entirely, but it has certainly made leaps and bounds in making doctors’ day to day much more manageable.

Specifically, let’s take a look at the impact that artificial intelligence is having on the field of healthcare and how it is poised to revolutionize everything from the way we approach treating and preventing disease to how we can improve quality of life for everyone using data.

IBM’s Watson is at the forefront of a lot of the hype regarding this massive digitization and automation that is happening within health care.  While there are probably some who feel that much of the hype surrounding the Watson healthcare initiatives is unwarranted or just over-inflated, one thing is for sure: we are witnessing the beginning of a massive undertaking in healthcare.

With the trend of digitizing our records becoming more prevalent, it certainly makes sense to do our best to leverage this data to provide more insight into global health as well as more precise individual approaches as well.  With projects ranging from Genomics, Drug Discovery, Oncology, and Care Programs, Watson is genuinely trying to improve every aspect of the Healthcare industry. This may come as somewhat of a surprise, considering most people picture robotic surgeons and virtual nurses rather than more Narrow AI application when they think of artificial intelligence in medicine.

In reality, we are only seeing artificial intelligence being applied in these specific approaches, whether it be the use of NLP in creating a virtual assistant that can explain treatment options and lab results, or precision medicine where ML is used to  sequence patients’ genomes to determine personalized treatment options, or even the use of all healthcare data to better ensure patients aren’t hospitalized unnecessarily or billed incorrectly.

Artificial Intelligence is allowing us to make sense of the data that we are producing, and it’s doing so by analyzing and automating tasks that are repetitive and time consuming for medical professionals.

I find these narrow applications to be the most promising and as a result, the most exciting.

While it is certainly still beneficial and even necessary at times to think in less realistic terms in order to drive progress and understanding, I think it is most important to approach these technologies with practicality so that they can benefit the most people possible. Meaning hype and support of certain technologies can actually be detrimental to these projects’ overall likelihood of success.

Even if something shows incredible promise, our expectations of the technology can create a ‘bubble effect’ of sorts where the performance of the project/innovation/technology is misrepresented or overinflated to the point that it detracts from the actual progress that has been made. This can be seen happening in many of the current applications of artificial intelligence and blockchain technology.

If A.I. initiatives approach the Healthcare space with a pragmatic, hopeful approach, we will continue to see remarkable progress in the space for years to come.

Mac McMahon

Mac is currently the Head of IT and Program Instructor at a small Nonprofit that is dedicated to teaching youth life lessons through bicycles. Mac is also currently pursuing a degree in IST from Penn State.

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