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Your Fridge Is Getting Smarter, Why Can’t Your Doctor’s Office?

February 09, 2018
Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare

Exploring Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare

By now, most people are comfortable with the idea that networked devices and artificial intelligence (AI) are becoming part of our everyday lives. In the United States, the smart devices market—which includes security systems, lighting and appliances—was a $40 billion industry in 2017, and the number of smart devices in American homes is forecasted to increase 70 percent over the next two years.1

Beyond the consumer market, many industrial and commercial functions can now be automated. In most cases, workers are open to the idea of automation, especially since old ways of working can be costly and inefficient. When tasks are repetitive and consistent, automating those tasks can save companies millions and leave human workers with only higher-level responsibilities requiring human judgment and creativity. In fact, some 53 percent of workers estimate they can reclaim two hours per day by automating certain tasks.2

Doctor Robot Will See You Now

One industry poised to see a major boom in AI is healthcare. Already, surgeons have come to rely on robotics, finding that certain delicate procedures can be performed better by specially designed machines than by a human hand. Surgical bots aren’t sentient, and they’re not performing surgery on their own just yet, but select applications of medical AI can help ease a doctor’s many responsibilities, including decision making. Two heads really are better than one, even if one of them is a bot.3

Beyond surgical applications, AI can greatly improve care delivery methods and patient management. These two data-driven processes can be offloaded to streamline healthcare administration, which has the potential to improve patient outcomes by as much as 40 percent while cutting costs in half. But AI-assisted healthcare benefits more than doctors and patients; it’s good for the bottom line, too. The market for AI applications in healthcare reached over $663 million in 2014 and is expected to top $6 billion by 2021.4

Planning for the F.U.T.U.R.E.

The full potential of AI is yet to be realized, and as machines get smarter, ethical concerns will grow. Fortunately, the U.S. House of Representatives is currently considering HR 4625, also known as “Fundamentally Understanding The Usability and Realistic Evolution (or FUTURE) of Artificial Intelligence Act of 2017,” which establishes an advisory committee focused on developing AI for the “benefit of all” and includes wording specific to the development of artificially intelligent healthcare applications.5

Is Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare Safe?

As with any autonomous AI, there are practical, legal and ethical concerns surrounding the proliferation of automated technology throughout healthcare. Our legal system is currently ill-prepared to deal with issues of liability and other potential ethical problems that autonomous bots would introduce into medical practice. However, we’re still a long way from trying to replace doctors with computers altogether. Instead, the immediate future seems poised to include AI that can help human medical professionals with diagnoses and decision making to deliver superior care at a cheaper cost.

To learn more about the legal challenges currently facing the adoption of AI in health technology, take a look at how HIPAA has spurred the evolution of the field of health informatics.