By Meredith Simmons
Have you ever found yourself scrolling through Twitter, surprised at how relatable the content was? Or have you ever chatted with an online customer service rep to help resolve an issue and were thrilled with how attentive and efficient they were? Personalized content isn’t a coincidence, and great online customer service isn’t just a good hiring decision. They’re all possible thanks to artificial intelligence.
Your favorite social media profiles use data to tailor content to your unique preferences and companies use chatbots designed to mimic human employees as the first line of defense in customer service. I was fascinated by this when I started working with tech clients. I began to understand how companies leveraged AI in everything from contract management to day to day operations.
That said, artificial intelligence is revered for its efficacy and its ability to problem-solve, its influence within specific industries, such as healthcare, is yet to be fully explored. As we use AI to collect data and apply it to the healthcare industry, we’re revolutionizing ways to keep people healthy. AI has proven to be a critical component in diagnosis, treatment, care, and outcomes. Below are just some of AI’s most transformative benefits.
Protecting communities from disease outbreaks
What’s more telling of technology’s significance than how it’s guided us through a recent pandemic? Like with COVID-19, infectious diseases continue to threaten global population health. Leveraging predictive analytics is the only way to shift towards disease prevention, rather than handling the repercussions after-the-fact.
Massive amounts of data can now be collected through public health surveillance efforts, thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence. This data not only expands disease knowledge, it helps organizations create projections about the potential effects of disease spread. More and more companies are figuring out how to use technology to gather information that will continue to save lives. The Public Health Company, for example, an innovation-driven company created by both public health experts and ex-financial services professionals, developed the first ever Public Health as a Service (PHaaS) platform that can measure real-time public health data to prevent, detect, and contain infectious disease outbreaks.
AI can also understand what patient populations have a higher risk of contracting certain diseases and extend guidance and support that can reduce the likelihood these individuals jeopardize their health and need to enter into the healthcare system at any level. This not only saves patients money, but can reduce the cost burden on healthcare facilities as well. As these life-saving, cost-effective technologies are deployed, you can only imagine the ripple effect in lower-income countries as well.
Granting everyone access to digital therapeutics
When people talk about artificial intelligence’s expansion in healthcare, there are so many revolutionary advancements to learn about that it can make your head spin. Just looking at all the available wearable technologies alone is remarkable. There are portable EKG monitors that can detect heart issues, wireless devices that measure a person’s blood pressure, and biosensors that assess everything from physical movement to biofluids.
These AI applications are critical to helping patients and their physicians track important health data and prevent serious complications, but I wanted to bring attention to another aspect of the patient journey: recovery.
Digital therapeutics help reduce gaps in patient care, which leads to improved patient outcomes. Kaia Health, for example, makes effective therapies for preventative, acute, chronic, and presurgical care more accessible to users around the globe. Their virtual physical therapy app isn’t only a physical relief for patients, but it’s helped people achieve lower levels of anxiety and depression as well. Their computer vision technology uses AI algorithms to analyze movements through a patient’s phone and deliver corrective feedback in real-time to ensure proper form and movement for a better recovery.
Room for improvement
With new technology comes new challenges, and nowhere is that more true than in the healthcare industry. As a lawyer working in the healthcare and technology space, one of the main challenges I see with the advent of AI is the protection of medical and consumer privacy. This is both a legal and public policy problem with no easy solution. We already confront the issue of data leaks, hackers, and misuse of personal information on a daily basis. Add in massive amounts of personal, private medical information and you may have a recipe for disaster.
While some states have data privacy regulations in place, and the European Union’s strong privacy laws under GDPR help protect patients, we still have a long way to go to understanding how AI can impact patient data use. Across the U.S., the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects patients from the disclosure of certain health information, however, in the case of AI, it’s likely that patients have consented to the use of their data.
Innovative problems will require creative solutions. Nonetheless, AI in healthcare is here to stay, and we’ll all be better — and healthier — for it.