Healthcare has made tremendous strides over the past 100 years with the utilization of antibiotics, DNA research, nuclear medicine, prosthetics, and other physical devices. It stands to make even more profound improvements over the next century through the use of artificial intelligence (AI).
Already, IBM’s Watson is being used to identify better cancer treatment options. Manufacturers are developing wearable health data recognition and medical diagnosis tools that can identify problems earlier and shorten the time elapsed between discovery of an issue and treatment. Work is being done to assist patients with diabetes testing and treatment.
AI offers the opportunity to speed up DNA research and the identification of new antibiotics and other drugs, at significantly reduced development costs. AI may help in the reprogramming of the cells of our bodies to better fight diseases and aging by more rapidly analyzing the vast amounts of data involved and suggesting treatments. Imagine the equivalent of thousands of well-trained researchers working 24/7 to develop cures to a wide range of human diseases. Who wouldn’t want that technological capability?
We’re already seeing the use of “virtual doctors” through Mercy Virtual and other organizations that provide remote medical consultation to hospitals 24/7. Currently, these involve providing online contact with doctors and medical staff through virtual interfaces at remote hospitals. AI is helping with the prioritization of cases and the presentation of diagnostic results to help these doctors provide real-time consultations. In the future, AI will assist in providing more medical diagnosis and treatment options as well, to improve the patient experience.
Down the road, it will be possible and likely that a patient’s first contact with the medical field will be via smart phone to a virtual doctor who is more knowledgeable about symptoms and the need for further action than many first providers you might see today. That virtual doctor might direct you to come in to visit with a human doctor or might forward its diagnosis to your doctor to be handled remotely.
In Japan, we are already seeing work toward the introduction of robotic caregivers to fill the gap created by an aging population and too few people to fill the roles. With a modest AI “brain” these assistants can provide for the physical needs of patients and with upgraded AI can provide a form of companionship to an otherwise isolated individual. The application can also help handicapped individuals and those with illnesses that require assistance during recovery. This would be particularly helpful to those living in nursing homes to provide more personalized attention than they currently get.
As medicine and technology continue to advance, the use of artificial and mechanical components to replace damaged and worn out biological parts should provide significant healthcare benefits. These may be designed with the help of AI or could also involve AI in terms of making the link between a neurologically damaged brain and the individual’s limbs so the person can recover mobility.
Over the next 100 years, AI could help us to eradicate many of the diseases and genetic conditions that plague us today.