How artificial intelligence will streamline patient care

Consumers are using artificial intelligence every day, even if they don't realize it yet. The same technological advancements that let Siri answer questions on the iPhone will also save lives one day, by contributing to innovative medical products. In a recent speech, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg highlighted the many benefits that advanced AI will bring to people's everyday lives. In particular, he singled out healthcare as an industry that stands to be transformed. Consumers will stand to benefit the most, as this disruption will provide them medical care that is more efficient and better customized to their needs.  

Faster diagnoses 
Zuckerberg mentioned a breakthrough medical product that can identify skin cancer through smartphone technology. Although he didn't mention it by name, it's likely he was speaking about SkinVision or DermaCompare. Through supervised learning, these apps can diagnose skin cancer by simply viewing a smartphone image of a skin lesion. DermaCompare promises to empower people to "take better care of their own health" through artificial intelligence. A digital design innovation like this can help patients connect with doctors anywhere in the world and receive an accurate diagnosis faster than making an appointment at a clinic. 

"Machine learning can help doctors determine the best treatment plans."

Personalized treatments
Patient characteristics can vary wildly, and this can make it challenging when doctors determine treatment plans. Depending on age, lifestyle, medical history and other factors, two ideal treatments for the same type of cancer could be very different for two different patients. When it comes to the treatments themselves, machine learning can help doctors analyze patient data to determine the best possible treatment plan for each patient.

Currently, poring over medical records can be time-consuming for doctors, due to the large amounts of data. However, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh are leveraging AI to analyze the vast swath of electronic health records, insurance information, prescription drug histories and all other health-related data to develop treatment plans that are customized for each patient

More convenient treatment
When patients are feeling ill, they'll be able to share their symptoms with AI programs. These AI tools can identify speech patterns and access relevant information. An AI with extensive health data will be able to answer questions related to symptoms, and either recommend a treatment, connect the patient remotely with a remote doctor or nurse, or advise the patient to seek medical attention at a local clinic. Most clinics will be located in convenient public places like malls, and will be staffed primarily by nurse practitioners. Patients who actually visit major hospitals will be either be very sick, require surgery or have a very unusual and perplexing ailment requiring special attention.

"Patients will have access to medical care that is more cost effective."

By acting as the gatekeeper and responding to simpler queries, this "virtual clinic" will allow doctors and nurses  to focus their attention on patients with more complicated needs. This presents a disruptive innovation, because AI will reduce the need for small, regional hospitals and clinics throughout the country. "In the wired environment, geography won't matter much," said David Ollier Weber in Hospitals & Health Networks. By accessing medical professionals remotely, patients will have access to medical care that is more cost-effective, without sacrificing quality. 

While many of us are already using AI in our everyday lives, this is just the first step for digital health. Harnessing machine learning will continue to develop innovative healthcare technology, creating better tools for healthcare professionals and better treatments for patients. 

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