Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare: Can Machine Intelligence Replace Human Judgement?

Artificial Intelligence

How intelligent can machines get? This fundamental question was explored by the English mathematician and computer scientist, Alan Turing, when he was working for the Churchill government during the Second World War. At that time, Britain was struggling to decode messages transmitted by the German Navy using the Enigma code and desperately needed an innovative solution to their predicament. Turing, in December 1939, conceived his ground-breaking sequential statistical analysis technique called Banburismus and successfully managed to decipher the Enigma code, helping the Allied Forces win the Second World War. In many ways, Turing’s work laid the foundation for what is today known as ‘Artificial Intelligence’.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be understood as a computing technology in which machines are taught or programmed to think, reason, learn, and adapt like humans. While the advantages of AI have been extensively explored in military applications, many other industry verticals are actively adopting AI-based technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), which are fueling the much-acclaimed Fourth Industrial Revolution, or its famed moniker, Industry 4.0. One industry which is expected to reap enormous benefits from AI is healthcare. Deployment of AI at healthcare facilities will significantly enhance the productivity of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, says CPA Australia, an accounting firm in Australia. The need for AI will get further bolstered as the world stares at the declining number of medical professionals. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), by 2035, there will be a global shortage of about 13 million healthcare workers. Filling this wide gap will require speedy development and uptake of modern technologies and AI is at the forefront in the current context.

The efficiency and accuracy of AI in medical applications has been sufficiently tested and proven by many technology giants. Taking a look at a few examples would be enlightening.

Where is This Market Headed?

Moving forward, the future of AI technology in the healthcare industry lies in making AI-based tools more accessible and affordable to healthcare facilities in developing and underdeveloped countries. In India, AI-powered devices and techniques are gaining traction in the field of ophthalmology and China is heavily investing in making the application of AsI and IoT as broad-ranging as possible. However, many countries in Asia and Africa are still deprived of access to new-age healthcare technologies. The epicenter of the global economy is shifting towards these two continents and their untapped potential in up for grabs for interested players.

Implementation of AI Proves to be a Boon for Cancer Researchers

October 2019: Cancer researchers are welcoming the entry of AI tools in the field of cancer treatment. Maine-based biomedical research institution, The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), developed an AI-based mechanism that would enable the global scientific community to efficiently collect and analyze the copious amounts of medical data generated on a daily basis. Christened Clinical Knowledgebase (CKB), the tool would empower medical professionals across the globe to sift through complex genomic data, improve patient care, and most importantly, share results of clinical trials and cutting-edge research studies with the global community. What researchers at JAX hope is that this tool would provide a boost to the field of precision medicine through pinpoint genomic profiling and extraction of relevant medical information to ensure effective treatment. To meet this goal, researchers at JAX are collaborating with Microsoft’s computer scientists working on the company’s Project Hanover. The project aims at developing AI-powered technology that would enable computers and machines to sort through complex medical data contained in research documents and highlight the information pertinent to the case at hand.

AI to Infuse Fresh Energy into UK’s NHS

August 2019: In a bid to make its healthcare industry future-proof, the UK government declared its intention to £250 million into the country’s National Health Service (NHS) to strengthen and expand its operations through the setting up of an Artificial Intelligence Lab. The government will also be establishing a new unit within the NHS which will act as a link between the lab, the industry experts, and academicians. With the rising tide of digitization of medical records in major world economies, the UK government aims to make healthcare delivery more data and AI-driven, thereby easing the load on healthcare professionals. According to the Department of Health and Social Care, the focus areas of the initiative would include – improving screening of cancer patients and speeding up result delivery; facilitating early diagnosis of conditions such as dementia and accurately identifying patients most at-risk of such diseases; utilizing predictive analysis tools to estimate and meet future requirements of beds, devices, drugs, and other crucial infrastructure needs; and providing NHS workers with necessary skills to effectively utilize AI technologies in streamlining routine tasks. Technology pioneers such as Google have already made their mark in this domain. For instance, in 2015, an NHS trust based in London partnered with Google-owned AI specialist DeepMind to create a task management mobile app, Streams, designed for medical practitioners. Thus, such collaborations between industry leaders and government institutions has opened the floodgates of innovation in the market for AI in healthcare.