For centuries, healthcare decisions have been made based on a doctor’s best medical judgment about a patients’ condition. Now, however, with the help of recent technological advances, artificial intelligence (AI) is beginning to play a larger role in healthcare delivery, treatment decisions and other aspects of care once solely reserved for humans.
In an article from STAT, Roger Smith, the chief technology officer at Florida Hospital Nicholson Center, discusses three elements where AI will change how hospitals operate and care for patients:
- Training. With the help of AI, training for healthcare providers will become more dynamic and interactive. Smith gives an example of a training game for surgeons that he and other colleagues created with a game development company. Surgeons are skilled at their trade, but need strong leadership and communication skills to effectively direct the surgical team during procedures. The training game Smith and his colleagues created uses avatar intelligence found in popular video games such as “Call of Duty” so characters can help surgeons develop these skills by giving them feedback and guidance on the choices they make while playing the training game. Scenarios are set in operating rooms, and surgeons can’t make progress in the game unless they make the correct choices when interacting with characters. Surgeons are scored based on their decisions – and they’re given an automated rationale about why each choice they make is either right or wrong.
- Robots. Cutting-edge hospitals are already performing common surgeries and procedures with the assistance of robotic technology. Robots give providers the ability to perform surgeries with a high level of precision. Currently, these robots are limited in their understanding of these procedures. They know nothing about a patient’s anatomical structures or the surgeon’s intentions. With advances in AI technology, though, this is poised to change. Future robots will be preprogrammed with knowledge about each procedure they’re performing, and they’ll be able to obtain even more knowledge through machine learning, which is a concept where robots and other technological equipment “learn” new things each time a task is performed. The robot can then call upon that knowledge to more actively assist a surgeon during subsequent procedures. Robots are also being built to help with other tasks besides surgery – according to a piece in Forbes, Toyota’s recently created a robot designed to give more efficient rehab to stroke victims in Japan. As AI gets more sophisticated, robots like these will play a bigger role in patients’ treatment and recovery.
- Patient data. Hospitals are already in the middle of a revolution regarding patient data, since the majority are using electronic health records (EHR) systems to store patients’ medical information. Although this data’s readily available, it’s not being used to its full potential. Issues with interoperability limit data sharing, so one patient could have health information saved in multiple EHR databases that don’t communicate with each other. Hospitals also can’t draw any big conclusions about patient health due to this scattered data. However, advances in data analytics can help. Many software programs currently exist that can pull information from disparate sources and compare it to draw conclusions and find significant trends. This process, known as “data mining,” has become more refined as time goes on. Eventually, even if EHRs still have difficulty directly transmitting data to each other, programs used for data analytics can fill in the gaps by helping hospitals identify patterns in their patient mix, which can give them a clear idea of what services they should provide to improve population health as a whole while better serving their patients.