Time spent in healthcare settings is typically when we’re at our most vulnerable, and perhaps our most human. That's why empathy and attentiveness are such treasured qualities among medical professionals.
So we think it’s quite telling that artificial intelligence (AI) is gaining particular velocity in the world of healthcare, where affective skills come at such a premium. As we’ve written previously, AI coverage that focuses on its threat to human jobs generally misses the mark. Instead, AI is much more likely to augment, rather than supersede, human potential.
AI tools complement people’s ingenuity and multiply its outputs. In the field of healthcare, that means maximising the conditions for people to live longer, happier lives.
Human-centric AI is already sweeping through healthcare, with much more innovation still to come. But who benefits?
The true measure of a healthcare innovation is whether it helps people live better lives. So far, AI augurs well on that front, both in and out of clinical settings.
The benefits for patients start a long time before they come into hospital. Last year, I wrote about the complex web of internet-connected wearable devices available to the public. Each day, these tools’ biosensors produce unfathomable quantities of data. When fed to predictive analytics algorithms, this data could pave the way for breakthroughs in diagnostics. Increased rates of early detection would save many lives.
Deep learning models are already advancing diagnostic practices for cardiovascular disease. If brought to bear on cancer, these methods could pick up countless cases before they’ve had a chance to spread.
AI’s uses in disease management work similarly. Smart insulin pumps can now automate delivery by monitoring diabetics’ blood sugar levels.
As the technology matures, drug therapies and treatment regimes will become more personalised.
Communication is a huge part of effective healthcare. Large language models (LLM) are now being fashioned into virtual staff. These chatbots provide round-the-clock consultation, whenever and wherever nurses aren't available.
Medical professionals and healthcare services
Nobody goes into medicine or nursing for a quiet life.
But levels of stress and burnout in these professions are reaching a crisis point. In this context, AI couldn’t have come at a better time.
For healthcare staff, patient-facing duties make up just one part of the daily routine. The weight of administrative tasks can drive talented practitioners out of the profession.
But AI can now handle many of these procedures, whether managing medical records or staff. The hope is that enough of these processes can be automated to cause real improvements in the working conditions of the typical doctor or nurse. Healthcare services may see a much-needed uptick in retention.
AI is set to underpin a new raft of clinical decision support (CDS) applications. Of course, nobody should be going to ChatGPT for medical advice, least of all doctors. But specialist, healthcare-oriented LLMs, trained on the strongest body of evidence and tested for unfailing accuracy, could help clinicians’ make the best decisions. It may be just a matter of time till the first prototype arrives.
Pharmaceutical researchers work a long way back from the frontlines of medicine. But the compounds they identify make all the difference to care.
Drug trials can be an onerous process, and a costly one to boot. However, AI is posed to make them shorter and cheaper.
AI can replace some of the functions of real-world trials by running them in silico; that is, simulated by computers. By modelling molecules' interactions, researchers can quickly find the most promising compounds. The same applies at the development stage and in clinical trials.
It’s hard to predict how long it will take for these new processes to become standard practice. But the time-to-market journey for all sorts of drugs is set to get a whole lot shorter.
HealthTech & Diagnostics companies
The medical technology sector isn’t just driving the growth of AI in healthcare settings. It has also played an outsized part in AI’s overall development.
Between 2014 and 2021, annual percentage growth in AI-based MedTech patent applications frequently surpassed that of AI as a whole.
We can’t foresee the pace of innovation slowing any time soon. As I touched on earlier, a new breed of diagnostic tools are hitting the market. Radiology and cardiology are seeing the lion’s share of activity, but hematology and neurology are making up ground.
These tools are most enhanced as part of an ecosystem of different companies. We expect to see a surge in partnerships and collaborations across different sectors
How to navigate a revolution
If it seems like AI makes everyone a winner, that’s not quite the case. These tools constitute a genuine technological upheaval. Throughout history, such turns of the wheel have always seen the old make way for the new.
Organisations that rely on legacy methodologies and pipelines must adapt or risk becoming irrelevant.
There will also be no room for bad actors. AI is already attracting the preliminary attention of regulators across the world. As their approaches solidify, various frameworks for handling this Promethean technology will emerge. To succeed, you must keep an eye on the regulatory conversation or see your reputation suffer.
It's also critically important to understand AI beyond large language models like ChatGPT. Generative AI is a marvel, but it won’t always be the most useful tool in healthcare settings. Organisations that don’t diversify their AI applications will limit their own market appeal.
Check out our new article to learn when to use generative AI over other machine learning tools.
We’re at a pivotal moment in time, and nobody knows who will drive successful change. But we’re willing to bet on the organisations who embrace AI as a means to enrich human wellbeing.
PRINCIPAL HEALTHCARE ARCHITECTAdrian is an experienced solution director, architect and designer with 25+ years of diverse technology experience. Specialising in healthcare IT, he has worked with major national healthcare organisations in the UK, Europe, Australia and the US as well as on numerous projects for providers and payers. As an expert in healthcare and digital transformation, Adrian is making significant contributions, like authoring whitepapers on enhancing the patient experience, delivering keynote speeches on future wellness and well-being and addressing the role of information design in patient care management and medication alert fatigue at various conferences.
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