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Naum Aksenov
Naum Aksenov

Artificial Intelligence Healthcare

Artificial intelligence (AI) is reshaping healthcare, and its use is becoming a reality in many medical fields and specialties. AI, machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP) and deep learning (DL) enable healthcare stakeholders and medical professionals to identify healthcare needs and solutions faster with more accuracy, using data patterns to make informed medical or business decisions quickly.

Artificial Intelligence Healthcare

AI is able to analyze large amounts of data stored by healthcare organizations in the form of images, clinical research trials and medical claims, and can identify patterns and insights often undetectable by manual human skill sets.

The AI and ML industry has the responsibility to design healthcare systems and tools that ensure fairness and equality are met, both in data science and in clinical studies, in order to deliver the best possible health outcomes. With more use of ML algorithms in various areas of medicine, the risk of health inequities can occur.

AI adoption in healthcare continues to have challenges, such as lack of trust in the results delivered by an ML system and the need to meet specific requirements. However, the use of AI in health has already brought multiple benefits to healthcare stakeholders.

By improving workflows and operations, assisting medical and nonmedical staff with repetitive tasks, supporting users in finding faster answers to inquiries, and developing innovative treatments and therapies, patients, payers, researchers and clinicians can all benefit from the use of AI in healthcare.

AI is getting increasingly sophisticated at doing what humans do, but more efficiently, more quickly and at a lower cost. The potential for both AI and robotics in healthcare is vast. Just like in our every-day lives, AI and robotics are increasingly a part of our healthcare eco-system.

Additionally, AI increases the ability for healthcare professionals to better understand the day-to-day patterns and needs of the people they care for, and with that understanding they are able to provide better feedback, guidance and support for staying healthy.

Drug research and discovery is one of the more recent applications for AI in healthcare. By directing the latest advances in AI to streamline the drug discovery and drug repurposing processes there is the potential to significantly cut both the time to market for new drugs and their costs.

Valo uses artificial intelligence to achieve its mission of transforming the drug discovery and development process. With its Opal Computation Platform, Valo collects human-centric data to identify common diseases among a specific phenotype, genotype and other links, which eliminates the need for animal testing. The company then establishes the molecule design and clinical development.

Many in healthcare are turning to AI as a way to stop the data hemorrhaging. The technology breaks down data silos and connects in minutes information that used to take years to process. A 2021 survey found 99 percent of healthcare leaders who planned to use AI expected to see savings.

AI in healthcare is an umbrella term to describe the application of machine learning (ML) algorithms and other cognitive technologies in medical settings. In the simplest sense, AI is when computers and other machines mimic human cognition, and are capable of learning, thinking, and making decisions or taking actions. AI in healthcare, then, is the use of machines to analyze and act on medical data, usually with the goal of predicting a particular outcome. A significant AI use case in healthcare is the use of ML and other cognitive disciplines for medical diagnosis purposes. Using patient data and other information, AI can help doctors and medical providers deliver more accurate diagnoses and treatment plans. Also, AI can help make healthcare more predictive and proactive by analyzing big data to develop improved preventive care recommendations for patients.

Healthcare is one of the most critical sectors in the broader landscape of big data because of its fundamental role in a productive, thriving society. The application of AI to healthcare data can literally be a matter of life and death. AI can assist doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers in their daily work. AI in healthcare can enhance preventive care and quality of life, produce more accurate diagnoses and treatment plans, and lead to better patient outcomes overall. AI can also predict and track the spread of infectious diseases by analyzing data from a government, healthcare, and other sources. As a result, AI can play a crucial role in global public health as a tool for combatting epidemics and pandemics.

The WHO guidance on Ethics & Governance of Artificial Intelligence for Health is the product of eighteen months of deliberation amongst leading experts in ethics, digital technology, law, human rights, as well as experts from Ministries of Health. While new technologies that use artificial intelligence hold great promise to improve diagnosis, treatment, health research and drug development and to support governments carrying out public health functions, including surveillance and outbreak response, such technologies, according to the report, must put ethics and human rights at the heart of its design, deployment, and use.

Healthcare is one of the major success stories of our times. Medical science has improved rapidly, raising life expectancy around the world, but as longevity increases, healthcare systems face growing demand for their services, rising costs and a workforce that is struggling to meet the needs of its patients.

Last, to highlight where AI is already having an impact in healthcare, the report also looks at detailed examples of existing AI solutions in six core areas where AI has a direct impact on the patient and three areas of the healthcare value chain that could benefit from further scaling of AI (Exhibit 1).

The report does not attempt to cover all facets of this complex issue, in particular the ethics of AI or managing AI-related risks, but does reflect the efforts on this important topic led by EIT Health and other EU institutions. Equally, while it acknowledges the potential disruptive impact of personalization on both healthcare delivery and healthcare innovation in the future (e.g., in R&D), the report focuses primarily on the impact of AI on healthcare professionals and organizations, based on the use cases available today.

Last, AI is in its infancy and its long-term implications are uncertain. Future applications of AI in healthcare delivery, in the approach to innovation and in how each of us thinks about our health, may be transformative. We can imagine a future in which population-level data from wearables and implants change our understanding of human biology and of how medicines work, enabling personalized and real-time treatment for all. This report focuses on what is real today and what will enable innovation and adoption tomorrow, rather than exploring the long-term future of personalized medicine. Faced with the uncertainty of the eventual scope of application of emerging technologies, some short-term opportunities are clear, as are steps that will enable health providers and systems to bring benefits from innovation in AI to the populations they serve more rapidly.

AI is now top-of-mind for healthcare decision makers, governments, investors and innovators, and the European Union itself. An increasing number of governments have set out aspirations for AI in healthcare, in countries as diverse as Finland, Germany, the United Kingdom, Israel, China, and the United States and many are investing heavily in AI-related research. The private sector continues to play a significant role, with venture capital (VC) funding for the top 50 firms in healthcare-related AI reaching $8.5 billion, and big tech firms, startups, pharmaceutical and medical-devices firms and health insurers, all engaging with the nascent AI healthcare ecosystem.

While there are widespread questions on what is real in AI in healthcare today, this report looked at 23 applications in use today and provides case studies of 14 applications already in use. These illustrate the full range of areas where AI can have impact: from apps that help patients manage their care themselves, to online symptom checkers and e-triage AI tools, to virtual agents that can carry out tasks in hospitals, to a bionic pancreas to help patients with diabetes. Some help improve healthcare operations by optimizing scheduling or bed management, others improve population health by predicting the risk of hospital admission or helping detect specific cancers early enabling intervention that can lead to better survival rates; and others even help optimize healthcare R&D and pharmacovigilance. The scale of many solutions remains small, but their increasing adoption at the health-system level indicates the pace of change is accelerating. In most cases, the question is less whether AI can have impact, and more how to increase the potential for impact and, crucially, how to do so while improving the user experience and increasing user adoption.

We are in the very early days of our understanding of AI and its full potential in healthcare, in particular with regards to the impact of AI on personalization. Nevertheless, interviewees and survey respondents conclude that over time we could expect to see three phases of scaling AI in healthcare, looking at solutions already available and the pipeline of ideas.

First, solutions are likely to address the low-hanging fruit of routine, repetitive and largely administrative tasks, which absorb significant time of doctors and nurses, optimizing healthcare operations and increasing adoption. In this first phase, we would also include AI applications based on imaging, which are already in use in specialties such as radiology, pathology, and ophthalmology.

In the third phase, we would expect to see more AI solutions in clinical practice based on evidence from clinical trials, with increasing focus on improved and scaled clinical decision-support (CDS) tools in a sector that has learned lessons from earlier attempts to introduce such tools into clinical practice and has adapted its mind-set, culture and skills. Ultimately respondents would expect to see AI as an integral part of the healthcare value chain, from how we learn, to how we investigate and deliver care, to how we improve the health of populations. Important preconditions for AI to deliver its full potential in European healthcare will be the integration of broader data sets across organizations, strong governance to continuously improve data quality, and greater confidence from organizations, practitioners and patients in both the AI solutions and the ability to manage the related risks.


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