Only a few short years ago, healthcare organizations were wondering what exactly “big data” was and why they had to care about it.
As the industry moves into 2017, they might have similar questions about the definitions of terms like “blockchain,” “the Internet of Things,” and “artificial intelligence” – but the use cases for these cutting-edge technologies are rapidly becoming crystal clear.
From precision medicine and business intelligence to data security and patient engagement, the IoT, AI, and blockchain hold exciting promises for providers, patients, and researchers looking to move their big data hoards from repositories to real results.
The healthcare sector must join its peers in other industries to leverage these new applications for big data, according to a pair of reports fromthe White House and Gartner, Inc., in order to take advantage of the nearly-limitless opportunities for lowering costs, improving outcomes, and achieving quality goals.
Artificial intelligence will soon “improve the world”
While android physicians and self-driving gurneys are likely still several decades away, basic artificial intelligence programs are already making an impact on everyday society. Digital personal assistants are available on almost every smartphone, and chatbots, tailored advertisements, and voice-recognition systems are becoming increasingly common in the customer service industry.
In healthcare, breakthroughs in machine learning are starting to produce the first generation of intelligent clinical decision support tools that hold more knowledge than any human expert, and patients – particularly those with cancer – are starting to benefit from data-driven treatment plans and personalized care.
But artificial intelligence is only in its infancy, say the Executive Office of the President National Science and Technology Council Committee on Technology, and there is staggering potential for AI to revolutionize healthcare and other industries.
“Experts forecast that rapid progress in the field of specialized artificial intelligence will continue,” wrote US Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith and John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy.
“One area of great optimism about AI and machine learning is their potential to improve people’s lives by helping to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges and inefficiencies. Public and private sector investments in basic and applied R&D on AI have already begun reaping major benefits to the public in fields as diverse as health care, transportation, the environment, criminal justice, and economic inclusion.”
The report suggests that self-driving cars may help to improve quality of life and access to care for elderly or immobile patients, and highlights the potential for precision medicine to help patients live longer, healthier lives. It also cites several examples of AI in action within the healthcare industry.
“At Walter Reed Medical Center, the Department of Veteran Affairs is using AI to better predict medical complications and improve treatment of severe combat wounds, leading to better patient outcomes, faster healing, and lower costs,” the report says. “The same general approach—predicting complications to enable preventive treatment—has also reduced hospital-acquired infections at Johns Hopkins University.”
“Given the current transition to electronic health records, predictive analysis of health data may play a key role across many health domains like precision medicine and cancer research,” Smith and Holdren envision.
What is the Role of Natural Language Processing in Healthcare?
Speed, efficiency, precision, and volume are the areas where machine learning and AI can make an impact on activities critical to patient care, added the Gartner report. Smart machines may be able to reduce error rates by up to 30 percent for tasks that require high precision, which could result in lower costs.