Opinion/editorial: Artificial intelligence will transform health care

Monday, January 01, 2018 12:28 PM
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by Gary VanderArk, MD

Editor’s note: Colorado Medicine occasionally accepts and publishes opinion/editorial columns on topics of interest to Colorado physicians and consistent with topics associated with the Colorado Medical Society operational plan. The opinions expressed in all guest opinion/editorials are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Colorado Medical Society.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is on the way, and it will make us better doctors. By 2018 30 percent of providers will use cognitive analytics with patient data. We will be able to predict outcomes and improve diagnostics. It will drastically reduce errors. AI can tap huge databases from around the world. It can consume millions of pages of medical journals to show us best practices, stratification of risk and treatment suggestions. By focusing on preventive and predictive medicine, AI can avoid injury and disease altogether. It will reduce the burden of documentation, help triage patients and communicate with our patients.

Wow! Help is on the way and we need to get ready. All medical professionals must acquire basic knowledge about how AI works and patients need to know how AI can benefit them. Machine learning will improve the process and allow better coordination of care. AI has the potential to redesign health care completely. Computers can already develop better treatment plans, analyze images and read pathology slides better than doctors.

Virtual reality is already being used to effectively reduce postoperative pain, treat phobias, and handle depression and anxiety. It can be used to enhance medical training and it is an aid to rehabilitation. Augmented reality can provide information about drugs and is a fantastic aid in preparing for surgery. In neurosurgery it can show the way to approach a tumor and it makes surgery safer and produces better outcomes.

Health care trackers, wearables and sensors are great devices to teach us more about our bodies.  They can help patients retake control over their lives. We can now have immediate feedback on daily activities, sleep quality, blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, cardiac fitness, heart rate, temperature, electrocardiogram, cognitive skills, brain activity and productivity. We now have medical tricorders with which you can diagnose and analyze every disease. We will soon have microscopes with smartphones.

Although it took years and billions of dollars to complete the Human Genome Project, soon we will be able to get your whole genome for less than $100. Genomics will help detect sensitivity to drugs, risk for diseases, identify microbiomes, and suggest what we should eat.

AI will revolutionize drug development.  Nanotechnology will soon deliver drugs to cancerous tissue, swim through our bloodstream, and perform microsurgery. Robotics is one of the most exciting and fastest growing fields in health care. Robotics will complement doctors, not replace us. They already can disinfect a hospital room, take blood samples, reduce stress for elderly patients and let paralyzed patients walk again. Then there is the wonderful technology of 3D printing, which has the potential to eradicate transplantation waiting lists.

AI will change things for patients. If they feel sick or need medical advice, they can dial into a telehealth service. Patients who are really sick will have medical records immediately available for providers. Patients needing hospitalization will be surrounded by screens which will deliver tailored education and be responsive to their requests. Patient alerts will be calibrated to clearly distinguish life-threatening issues.

Yes, AI will make us better doctors. It will eradicate waiting time, prioritize my emails, find the information I need, keep me up-to-date, work when I don’t, help me make hard decisions, help me collaborate more and do administrative work. Hallelujah! n

Posted in: Colorado Medicine | Opinion/editorial


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