February 13, 2018
From the amount of steps we take in one day to the number of trips we make to the gym, data about our health is more comprehensive than ever before. Computers can detect ailments as varied as a broken heart. But as life expectancy stretches, physicians at many hospitals are overburdened, buried under piles of data for far too many patients.
Artificial intelligence is hoping to help. Using machine learning, doctors treat patients faster, more efficiently and cheaper. The technology can save the United States’ healthcare sector up to $100 billion according to a 2013 study by the McKinsey Global Institute.
Prevent and prepare
Our gadgets keep track of our pulse, heartbeats and diets, doing the work of a dozen doctors in the past. But sorting through these numbers can be a nightmare, especially for busy physicians. Machines are learning how to interpret and combine data from our cars, to our FitBits to mine for diseases– and they’re doing it better than humans. At the Georgia Institute of Technology, computers learned how to analyze health records to predict heart failure as much as nine months before doctors.
For patients suffering from serious illness, every second counts. A fast diagnosis expands a patient’s array of treatment options and frees up doctors to work on time-sensitive cases. Computers are even becoming more accurate than doctors at diagnosing disease, especially under pressure. In fact, an artificial intelligence diagnostic system at John Radcliffe Hospital in England diagnosed heart disease more accurately than doctors 80 percent of the time.
Artificial intelligence is also helping doctors match the right medicine to the right patient at the right time. By synthesizing treatment options with a patient’s personal genetic data, computers are providing treatment catered to individual biological needs. Artificial intelligence is often faster than doctors at sorting through different treatment options. IBM’s Watson computer, for example, took just 10 minutes to form a treatment plan for brain cancer patients, beating the 160 hours it took human experts.
Artificial intelligence is slowly relieving doctors of heavy burdens like diagnosing and crafting treatment plans. As the technology advances to become a part of the everyday
Marina Lopes is a freelance reporter and producer covering technology, politics and economy. Her articles and videos have appeared in the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the BBC, NBC, and the PBS NewsHour.
Marina holds a graduate degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Boston College.
She speaks Portuguese, Spanish, English and French.
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