AI is changing the cultural paradigm of medicine: its applications could become increasingly indispensable to provide answers in highly complex and uncertain contexts and allow doctors to have more time to take care of their patient’s care needs. AI will be essentially useful as it is complementary for the doctor, who will be able to delegate the calculations and operations on the data to the machines but keep for himself the interpretation of the complex phenomena and the consequent possible solutions.
AI and Data Analytics
Let’s start from the fact that AI is able to perform repetitive tasks, which are not lacking in the health sector. In the United States, doctors spend more time filling out electronic health records than working with patients. If artificial intelligence could do most of that recording, they could use better their time and intelligence!
AI and Prevention
Everyone knows that prevention is better than cure. New innovations like the smart belt, which warns people when they eat too much, are opening a new era of health prevention. The goal is to keep people in good health and to prevent them from seeking care.
AI and Diagnostics
When problems occur, AI can help identify them first. Microsoft is developing computers that work at the molecular level to fight cancer cells as soon as they are detected. AI is also used to analyze the behavior of online search engines to identify mental health problems.
AI can help doctors diagnose patients more quickly and arrive at an understanding based on 80% of health data, invisible to current systems because they are not structured. For example, in a recent article published in Nature Medicine, scientists claimed to have built a system that can automatically diagnose the most common childhood diseases, from flu to meningitis, after processing the patient’s symptoms, history, laboratory results and other clinical data.
Also very active in the medical field is IBM, which with its artificial intelligence Watson has entered the hospital wards permanently. Watson appears to be able to anticipate diagnoses of heart failure by two years compared to traditional methods. The algorithm is based on the data normally collected during the visits: “We have discovered – explains Jianying Hu, one of the researchers involved – that diagnosis of other diseases, prescribed drugs and medical records of possible admissions, in this order, can provide signals able to predict the disease. Added to this is information obtained from folders compiled by doctors using discursive language ».
AI and Research
Artificial intelligence can also be used to predict the possible side effects of a drug. This was demonstrated by a study by Stanford University published by the ACS Central Science journal. The algorithm succeeds, based on little information on the chemical structure of the potential drug, to formulate predictions both on the potential toxicity and on the instability of the molecule, greatly accelerating the time required to synthesize the drug.
When we think about artificial intelligence, we often think about robots. Science fiction has accustomed us to think of robots similar to humans, but much more intelligent. Well, even if not everyone has our appearance, they are already used successfully in medicine.
In the development of artificial intelligence, doctors must therefore play a role of guidance, supervision and monitoring, using their own intelligence and the abilities that make them superior to machines, in particular abstraction, intuition, flexibility and empathy , to exercise a conservative and constructively critical approach, highlighting the enormous potential, often uncritically emphasized for commercial reasons, but also the limits (and possible threats, such as the science fiction dystopia of machines in power!).