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3 Trends Defining AI in Healthcare 

By David Talby, CTO, John Snow Labs 

Healthcare has been leading the way in artificial intelligence (AI) for years. But events like the global pandemic have shone the light on how important and impactful this technology can be. Even as we emerge on the other side of COVID-19, factors like an aging population and skyrocketing healthcare costs prove the need for AI is here to stay. With the power to improve areas from drug discovery to streamlining operations and payments, we’ve only scratched the surface of AI’s full potential. 

But to understand where AI in healthcare is headed, we first need to take stock in where we are now. The second annual “AI in Healthcare Survey” aims to do just that. By asking 300+ respondents from across the globe how their organizations are using AI in a healthcare setting, we can start to piece together what’s working, what’s not, and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

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While many findings emerged from the survey results, there were three areas that stood out from the rest. By comparing these factors to year’s past, it’s interesting to see where the most progress is being made. These include the growing prioritization of data annotation, healthcare worker domain expertise, and the shift from public cloud providers to open source software.

  1. Growing Importance of Data Annotation: Technical leaders cited data integration (46%), BI (44%), NLP (43%), and new this year, data annotation (38% ) when asked what technologies they plan to have in place by the end of 2022. Text is now the most likely data type used in AI applications, and the prioritization of data annotation indicates an uptick in more sophisticated NLP technologies. 

As such, more sophisticated NLP use cases, such as clinical decision support and medical policy assessment, are gaining steam. This will become an even more critical area as we continue to adapt to new COVID-19 variants and consider how to prepare for the next pandemic. Better use of AI technology will be essential in helping with this challenge. 

  1. Bigger Focus on Medical Domain Experts: When asked about intended users for AI tools and technologies, over half of respondents identified clinicians (61%) as target users, and close to half indicated that healthcare providers (45%) are among their target users. Additionally, a higher rate of technical leaders cited healthcare payers and drug development professionals as potential users of AI applications.

It’s likely that the shift from data scientist to domain expertise will continue in healthcare and beyond ss low- and no-code solutions become more common. This is an important development, as democratizing AI and ML will open the doors for more use cases and more users to drive innovation.  

  1. Open source inches ahead of public cloud providers: With a new emphasis on open source software came a 12% decline in use of cloud services from last year. When asked what types of software respondents are using to build their AI applications, the most popular selections were locally installed commercial software (37%), and open source software (35%). 

Public cloud providers were still a top choice for mature organizations—classified as those with AI in production for more than two years—along with open source software. However, escalating security concerns are likely to have a substantial impact on both. As healthcare becomes a bigger target for bad actors, AI users need to be cautious of how their data is being used wherever it’s going. 

More advanced use cases, a broadening user base, and an increased interest in open source solutions are driving AI in healthcare forward. Concerns like security remain, but the future of AI is encouraging. While the results did not differ substantially from year’s past, it’s clear that progress is being made and will continue on through to 2023. 

Healthcare Business Today is a leading online publication that covers the business of healthcare. Our stories are written from those who are entrenched in this field and helping to shape the future of this industry. Healthcare Business Today offers readers access to fresh developments in health, medicine, science, and technology as well as the latest in patient news, with an emphasis on how these developments affect our lives.

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