As artificial Intelligence and “smarter” machinery make their way into our lives, it’s impossible to not consider the ways in which Artificial Intelligence will affect healthcare. Kids are getting virtual reality games for Christmas, bluetooth systems are the new normal, and self-driving cars are no longer pipe dreams. Machine-operated healthcare is not too far out of line.
The number one way we can expect to see Artificial Intelligence (AI) jump into the healthcare field is with machine learning. Computers that rely on networks modeled after the human brain will be able to process data to make the right decisions on their own. The fear with this, as demonstrated in Hollywood, is that computers may become “smarter” than humans, but will not have the emotional capacity of a human. For an extreme example, a medical computer may determine that the best course of action for treating a disease is removing everyone with that disease. The machines wouldn’t think about the fact that they would be taking innocent lives. They would have one goal in mind and no capacity for feelings and emotions.
Studies have found that at more than half of American women who get regular mammograms will see at least one false positive result over ten years of testing. Even when false positives are caught before the women are brought into procedures, it still leads to unnecessary testing and costs both for doctors and patients. Machines who can recognize, store, and compare patterns from thousands of images can be up to 10% more accurate than the human eye. As machines develop, that accuracy rate is expected to increase. Visual AI is expected to become the norm for radiology, pathology, dermatology, and ophthalmology.
Today, there are two forms of AI used in the medical sphere. One branch helps computers interpret human speech and writing, and the other allows computers to watch doctors at work and learn from what they are doing. What’s crazy about the second branch is that we can cherry pick which doctor-patient experiences the computers observe. We can have the computers only store the most successful experiences and learn from those.
Aside from the financial walls that AI presents, AI is currently fighting against societal stigma and fear. Patients aren’t ready to trust Artificial Intelligence and would prefer that doctors use their medical education and experience to provide treatment.
Plus, there is the reality that AI will eliminate the need for blue-collar (and some white-collar) jobs. Any job that does not require emotional connection can probably be replaced with a robot – but that’s progress. We can live with the fear that we will all lose our jobs, or we can stay excited about new technology and find new ways to make money and keep moving forward. Take ride-sharing services for example: Uber and Lyft have put a good-sized dent in the taxi industry. However, taxi drivers can adapt by becoming Uber or Lyft drivers or working for one of the two companies in some other capacity.
Whether you like it or not, the infiltration of Artificial Intelligence in our daily lives is inevitable. Who knows? One day, patients may be able to use AI to care for themselves at home. However, someone needs to make the machines, and the consumers have to pay for them. Even with AI, there will still be a need for medical insurance for a very long time.