Artificial intelligence (AI) was once mainly brought up in science-fiction novels and movies rather than being something people encountered in their daily lives. However, it’s now both advanced enough and accessible enough that individuals from almost all industries can make it suit their needs.
In health care, AI is responsible for some particularly impressive trends. The technology opened new possibilities for how doctors treat and diagnose illnesses, resulting in a higher quality of care for the patients that need it. AI assists in both emergencies and ongoing care improvements. Here are five examples:
AI for better self-management of chronic conditions
Chronic conditions can adversely affect the quality of life for the individuals diagnosed with them. However, proper care throughout the person’s lifetime typically makes a big difference in helping them remain as healthy as possible. Additionally, AI makes it easier for people to manage their chronic conditions at home, reducing the need for frequent office visits or emergency care.
For example, millions of people in the United States alone have diabetes. The condition typically requires frequent blood sugar monitoring, but AI can make them more straightforward — and even prevent catastrophes that could result in hospitalizations.
A Medtronic diabetes monitor — for those requiring multiple daily insulin injections — uses intelligent technology to warn users of predicted abnormal blood sugar levels 10-60 minutes in advance. It takes blood sugar readings 288 times per day to gather data. Also, people can make notes within a dedicated smartphone app to help them keep track of dietary or medication changes that may have positive or negative effects on their blood sugar levels.
Asthma is another similarly common condition, and AI technology could make it easier to live with, too. There’s also a product called the Arm Respiro, which is an AI-powered asthma inhaler. It boasts built-in machine learning algorithms that track things like inhalation technique and frequency.
Products like these empower patients and remove some burdens from caregivers. Plus, in many cases, it’s possible for people to share the collected data from the devices with their physicians to influence future disease management choices.
More non-invasive ways to diagnose serious illnesses
Something that arguably makes many people dread going to the doctor is the fear of exploratory surgeries or other interventions that put patients at an increased risk of things going wrong. Fortunately, AI equips doctors to make some diagnoses without using invasive techniques.
One example is the recent work from researchers to develop a smartwatch wearable to detect hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It’s a kind of heart disease that’s often missed during exams and could lead to sudden cardiac death. In a research study, the AI algorithm successfully detected the disorder 95 percent of the time in people who had it.
Scientists also developed a machine learning algorithm used in conjunction with a diagnostic technique called breast ultrasound elastography. It screens for breast cancer by assessing the stiffness of a lesion. Mammograms, which are typically used to check for breast cancer, often give false positives. But, researchers believe that breast ultrasound elastography could use the power of AI to provide more accuracy.
AI improves care for older adults
Data from the United Nations shows that the global population of people over the age of 65 is growing faster than other age groups. There’s an ongoing push to figure out the best ways to care for humans as they age and do so in cost-effective ways that benefit the older people and their caregivers alike.
So, it’s not surprising that a study predicted employment in the home health sector would grow nearly 60 percent in the period between 2012 and 2022. AI will not replace home health workers, but it could provide greater visibility to those employees, as well as family caregivers.
One option uses a deep learning computer vision system to capture data on real-time events, such as falls. It gives the appropriate information to caregivers who may need to intervene by alerting them and showing recorded video footage of events that could warrant further investigation. Then, older adults can continue to live independently or semi-independently without risking their safety.
Similarly, a wearable called AiCare offers 24/7 monitoring of older individuals. It detects pattern changes in wearers’ behaviors, such as decreased activity levels. Differences like those could indicate something is amiss, but the system notifies designated carers so they can take prompt action to get to the bottom of a possible issue.
Increasing progress in using blood tests for AI
Blood tests are standard diagnostic procedures, but they often take a while to give results. Various companies are working on ways to use AI for better blood tests. The technological solutions they create could bring about faster conclusions and require less blood from patients.
For example, an Israeli startup called Sight Diagnostics wants to bring AI to blood tests. Its system—which is already available to buy throughout the European Union—can reportedly give the results of complete blood counts (CBC) in only 10 minutes. The company initially tested its technology for malaria detection. But, it decided later to focus on the CBC for maximum impact since the test is the most common one ordered around the world.
There are also AI-based detection measures for sepsis, a blood infection that’s one of the leading causes of death in hospitals. When a research team built one option used by the HCA Healthcare health system, they incorporated data from millions of hospital stays. The resulting tool takes a continuous monitoring approach to check things like vital signs, lab reports and nurses’ records to look for signs that could indicate a sepsis risk.
The AI does not make decisions for the clinicians involved in a patient’s care. However, it provides them with the updated information necessary to make the most informed choices to avoid complications.
AI is supporting mental health needs
Hundreds of millions of people around the world suffer from mental illness. Researchers use AI in various ways to assist them, whether before or after their diagnoses.
Some scientists depend on AI to help them make more accurate mental health diagnoses. Work is underway on a project that takes data from MRI scans and feeds it to AI platforms that use machine learning algorithms. The aim is to take a data-driven approach to understand more about mental illness and the best ways to treat it.
Another recent achievement uses AI to detect depression in a child’s speech patterns. AI tools also help treat anxiety and depression, such as when a chatbot called Tess successfully reduced both issues in college students.
AI can help make mental health treatment more personalized, too. For example, it can help doctors identify people who are at the highest risk for suicide or aid them in prescribing the correct medication to reduce someone’s likelihood of having a depressive episode.
AI should spark positive changes in health care
The trends mentioned here illustrate why AI has so many potentially worthy uses in the health care sector. These are not the only AI advancements in medicine, though, and more will become apparent as the technology improves.