Artificial Intelligence (AI): Five Benefits & Applications in Healthcare
By Engineering Team October 23, 2019 10 mins read
Artificial Intelligence (AI), also known as machine intelligence, helps to process large amounts of structured and unstructured data to make intelligent and accurate decisions. This is in contrast to humans, who are incapable of processing a large volume of data in a short span of time. AI algorithms work by making use of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and by learning deeply from the larger data sets.
Natural Language Processing allows computers to decipher and maneuver human language to perform human-like tasks. AI creates a revolutionary impact on industries which are controlled by a strict set of rules and regulations. Financial and healthcare industries are influenced more by the regulatory environment because they make a significant impact on the lives of the general public. In the financial industry, regulations intend to warrant more transparency in financial matters, while in the healthcare industry, these regulations seek to safeguard all aspects of patient care.
The healthcare industry is highly regulated and stands to benefit greatly from Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. Below are some of the benefits AI offers to the healthcare industry.
Enables Automated and Accurate Compliance
Government regulations are constantly evolving due to continuous advancements in healthcare science and precision medicine.
The objectives of these regulations are to:
- Protect the confidentiality and integrity of patient information.
- Ensure patients receive quality treatment.
- Provide accurate and appropriate billing for patients and providers.
Complying with these regulations has never been as strenuous as it is today, but the good news is that AI can be used in hospitals and other healthcare companies to guarantee compliance. The compliance operations in the hospitals and laboratories can be enhanced significantly using AI because it automates the entire process.
Hospitals and laboratories can employ AI-powered tools to provide quality patient care and comply with regulatory agencies. The accurate results offered by the successful incorporation of AI in the healthcare industry can save both time and costs for healthcare professionals. AI can rapidly highlight billing and procedural practices that are outside of compliance. Due to the complexity of modern compliance, these discrepancies could otherwise be overlooked by humans, increasing the risk of costly non-compliance.
Provides Better Decision Making
Artificial intelligence, in the healthcare industry, provides significant benefits as it can more easily analyze enormous amounts of big data and make informed decisions within a very short period of time. Decisions made by humans, on the other hand, are often inaccurate because they are unable to analyze all the nuances of large data sets and are influenced by stress and emotions.
In the healthcare industry, those inaccurate decisions made by doctors and healthcare staff in critical situations can prove detrimental to the patient’s health. Moreover, the hospital is vulnerable to face legal issues and see a decline in its reputation, even from a single incident of imprecise or delayed decisions by its staff. The hospitals gain the following benefits from the incorporation of AI in their systems:
- Hospitals minimize the risk of inaccurate decisions through the collaboration of human and artificial intelligence helping to make accurate decisions based on past information.
- AI tools accurately diagnose certain diseases based on the symptoms of the patient. In this way, the healthcare professional suggests the correct treatment or appropriate medicines based on the specific needs of the disease.
- Hospitals integrate AI with its records to reduce the risk of prescription errors by the doctors. For example, automated drug dispensing cabinets are widely used in hospitals today. These cabinets keep track of the physician orders, thus helping to minimize the risk of prescription errors.
Hospitals should train their staff to use AI tools and promote learning advanced analytical skills as a first step to incorporating artificial intelligence. It’s important to note that AI should be used to assist the staff, not to substitute them. To integrate AI, hospitals need to carefully assess the areas in which they are considering AI to take a lead role in. AI tools should only be used in hospitals and laboratories after the regulatory approval by the concerned authorities.
Predicting Future Diseases
AI algorithms learn from a wealth of accessible information, helping to predict the likelihood of future diseases. They also predict the risk an individual patient has of developing a certain disease in advance, based on his/her current lifestyle and before the symptoms of the disease start showing up. Physicians can then recommend certain lifestyle changes and preventative treatments to mitigate the risk of developing that disease.
For example, some studies have suggested that AI can predict the likelihood of a patient developing cardiovascular diseases by examining the pulse rate of the patient. Checking the pulse of a patient is a much less invasive process than the alternative.
Based on their current information, such as breathing rate and facial features, many software companies are developing AI-powered applications to predict the future health condition of the user. Without the use of AI, these symptoms are often so subtle that they are overlooked by healthcare professionals.
Understanding Genetic Makeup
Our genes are the mastermind of all the activities going on inside our bodies. Researchers are always striving to better comprehend the genetic makeup of the human population because it aids to ascertain the causes of certain diseases.
The main hindrance in understanding the human genome is the huge amount of complex data that needs to be analyzed, however, AI has made this task easier, opening the door to some groundbreaking discoveries in the field of genomics. AI has transformed the way data is assimilated and analyzed in genetic laboratories. In genetic laboratories, the use of AI has proved to be beneficial in the following ways:
- AI analyzes complex genomic data and provides support in gene sequencing and gene editing.
- The analysis and sequencing of DNA have become expeditious and cheaper using AI.
- AI has facilitated the researchers in gaining deeper insight into the genetic blueprints of the human population.
- AI tools in genetic laboratories have the potential to screen a large volume of genetic samples at one time, with the least amount of supervision.
- Based on the genetic makeup of the population, researchers are able to warn patients about certain diseases and provide tailored treatments to minimize the risk of those diseases.
- AI helps to study the patterns in our genes and predict how we will react to certain medications.
- AI has played a significant role in discovering a new field in the domain of medicine known as precision medicine. Precision medicine primarily relies on the assumption that ‘one size does not fit all’. The ruling principle of precision medicine is to study the individual’s genetic behavior and the environment to tailor the treatment according to these instrumental factors. It is expected that the market share of precision medicine will reach billions of dollars in the coming years.
Prevent Fraudulent Billing
Healthcare frauds are draining the entire system financially and causing immense distress for companies and patients. The individual patients and the health insurance providers may be charged for treatments that were never provided or overcharged for inexpensive treatments. As of now, we cannot give the benefit of the doubt to every inconsistency present in hospital or laboratory bills. AI is helping to prevent frauds in the healthcare industry in the following ways:
- AI algorithms are designed to spot irregularities consistently in the payment system. For example, AI can meticulously analyze large amounts of data to establish if documentation of treatment exists for which the patient is invoiced.
- AI can also learn about the cost of the standard treatment of a specific condition from thousands of available records. Based on these records, it can unearth any deviation from the typical treatment provided to the patients in the same condition.
In the coming years, the role of AI is expected to increase significantly in the healthcare industry. AI will assist to reduce the mortality rates and increase the average lifespan of humans. Though the benefits offered by AI to the healthcare industry, in terms of the timely diagnosis of diseases and prevention of fraud is applauded, its usage, however, has also raised serious ethical and regulatory concerns.
These concerns entail the protection of the patient data and the implications of incorrect decisions made by AI-powered algorithms. Doctors are fearful that they may be replaced by AI in the future and will make the accountability onerous if the machines make inaccurate decisions that can prove fatal for the patients. Professionals are showing concern on the design and implementation of the new set of laws and regulations needed to unleash the comprehensive potential of this technology. We believe that artificial intelligence should not be feared and should be embraced by the healthcare industry to enable and provide the best care to the patient.