Artificial intelligence (AI) is going to revolutionize many aspects of our work and life, but the biggest transformation is going to affect our health. Being able to order a pizza through Alexa or writing a letter with Siri are certainly simplifying our daily life, but AI is about to improve our health by providing better medical diagnosis and more accurate therapies.
Big changes are around the corner, and as usual, detractors get vocals. This was the case 20 years ago when the internet became mainstream, and before that, when the first personal computers were introduced. Today many detractors say that robots are going to replace doctors, and we, the patients, will be dealing solely with medical robots very soon. They fear that the human element between doctor and patient is going to be lost, because robots will be able to present facts but will miss the empathy and emotional dimension of the doctor-patient relationship.
Emotional intelligence is also an AI research area today. With vision recognition, robots can already recognize emotions on faces—better than humans. But delivering a diagnosis and discussing the adequate therapy with patients is not about recognizing emotion; it is more about a good deal of tact and sensitivity, and those are skills that medical robots won’t get soon. AI can’t replace doctors. Here detractors are fully right.
Nevertheless, AI displaces doctors in many areas where a massive amount of data (knowledge) needs to be computed to recognize patterns—in specific diseases and evolutions in health, predictions, treatment efficiency, and drug efficiency. AI systems do a great job in finding tumors on CT/MRI scans, skin cancers in dermatology photos, and lung diseases on X-rays, because they can compute more reference data than a doctor has seen in an entire career. Many studies show that AI diagnoses are much faster and more accurate than those from medical specialists. Thus, the question arises: Why not use them for what they are good at, and leave the doctors to what they are good at? AI could take over the research and assist the doctor in the diagnosis and perhaps in the appropriate therapy. One other option is leaving the doctor to validate the AI proposal and deliver the final message to the patient. AI systems are the doctors’ assistants, not the doctors themselves.
AI will radically transform healthcare over the years. Besides bringing more accuracy to diagnoses and therapies, another interesting aspect is efficiency. Today, there is also a shortage of specialists in large countries such as the United Kingdom; many people must wait weeks to see a medical specialist. And this is not going to change in the next few years. Specialists sometimes spend hours analyzing the data they get from CT, MRI, and echography systems or consulting other experts to be sure that their diagnosis is correct. With the assistance of AI embedded in these devices, the decision-making process will be much faster and certainly less expensive. Doctors will have more time to spend with patients, and hopefully AI will ultimately reduce waiting time for appointments.
Healthcare is not the only sector that AI is going to transform. If you’d like to understand our NetApp vision, have a look at the short video: AI solutions from NetApp and NVIDIA.