According to a Frost & Sullivan’s “Artificial Intelligence Market – Key Application Areas for Growth in Healthcare IT, Forecast to 2022”, the market is anticipated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 68.55% between 2018 and 2022 reaching $6.16 billion. Just like artificial intelligence is at the crux of many advancements being made across industries like Retail, eCommerce, and Finance,  AI continues to make significant progress in healthcare too. Artificial intelligence in healthcare promises to help cut down healthcare costs while improving patient outcomes. 

Artificial intelligence is proving to be a self-running growth engine in the healthcare sector and here’s how –

AI in Healthcare – Revolutionizing Surgical Procedures with Robotics

According to Markets and Markets , the surgical robots global market will grow at a CAGR of 10.4% reaching $6.5 billion by 2023 from $3.9 billion in 2018. In 2018, more than 5K surgical robots were used in over 1 million medical procedures across the globe.  AI-assisted robotic surgical systems are at the forefront of innovation in healthcare to improve surgeon skills and patient outcomes. 

The term “Robot” often creates a misconception that robots perform surgery. That’s not the reality. Robots powered by  AI are increasingly gaining importance in assisting microsurgical procedures. So, don’t expect a robot surgeon but instead, expect robots enabled with artificial intelligence to help surgeons perform better. According to a study conducted on 379 orthopedic patients,  artificial intelligence assisted surgery resulted in 5 times lesser complications compared to the surgeons operating alone.

Robot-assisted surgery is an active and effective technology gaining importance in various medical procedures spanning gynecology, orthopedics, thoracic, general surgery, dental implants, neurology, and as well as hair transplants. Robotic technology allows doctors with minimal experience or medical practitioners new to a particular operating procedure to deliver treatment at a level which they would not be able to do even after gaining years of experience. Robot-assisted surgeries help reduce the effects of hand tremors and also constrain accidental movements.

Da Vinci, considered to be one of the world’s most advanced surgical robot in control, provides the surgeon with a set of surgical instruments that can be used in carrying out robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery with better control over conventional procedures. 

Heartlander, another miniature mobile robot, also has gained popularity as it reduces the damage required to access the heart and enters the chest through a small incision below the sternum. Using a single device, surgeons can now perform stable and localized mapping, sensing and treatment over the complete surface of the heart. 

AI in Medical Imaging and Analysis

IBM estimates that 90% of all medical data is images and they are the largest and the fastest-growing source of data in the healthcare industry. From images of dogs and cars to handwritten digits, neural networks have been of great use in processing visual data. The same capabilities are helping artificial intelligence transform the field of radiology by saving money and time for medical organizations while enhancing patient care. Once a medical image is captured through an MRI, CT Scan, Ultrasound, or X-ray,  a radiologist has to analyze it for any indications of abnormalities or signs of any diseases which requires interpreting several imaging studies to detect any serious condition. 

AI can assist in the diagnostic processes by analyzing various medical images of CT, MRI, or Ultrasound scans and provide feedback on what it can detect (locating features like small tumors in scans) which the human eye might miss out. Algorithms look at medical images to identify patterns after having been trained with large datasets of images and examinations. These AI-based systems can give information about the characterization of any abnormal findings without taking too much time, unlike a radiologist. Use of AI in medical imaging is an opportunity for radiologists as it would give them more time for evaluating clinical and laboratory contexts instead of spending too much time on image analysis.

Virtual Nursing Assistants

A recent report by Accenture estimates that the use of virtual nursing assistants in the healthcare industry could save $20 billion a year in costs by saving 20% of the time nurses spend on patient maintenance tasks.

With a shortage of nurses nowadays, if you are hospitalized for a surgery or illness, you may soon be getting advice, tips, encouragement, and information from Sally, a smiling and soft-spoken lady in hospital scrubs, or her male friend, Walt. Sally and Walt are not real humans. They have just animated avatars and your virtual personal health coaches from the AI-powered patient engagement and education platform iCare Navigator.  Sensely’s “Molly” is also another popular AI-powered nurse avatar that is in use by UCSF and UK’s NHS. Molly interacts with patients, asks them various questions concerning their health, assesses their symptoms, and guides them to the most effective care setting based on the symptoms. Virtual nursing assistants will soon become the most important players in a patient’s health care journey as they will reduce unnecessary hospital visits and lessen the burden on medical practitioners.

So, instead of searching on Google for the symptoms that you are suffering from, soon, you will have the assistance of a virtual nurse to guide you through. Virtual nursing assistants not just provide medical advice for any common illnesses or ailments but they also let you schedule a doctor’s appointment and are also available 24×7 to answer any queries you have in real-time. This is one of the top applications of artificial intelligence in healthcare that is being increasingly adopted to increase patient engagement and improve a patient’s self-management skills so that they can prevent any persistent illness from getting worse.

Last but not Least, AI-powered Health Apps Play a Vital Role in Keeping You Well

The biggest potential benefit of artificial intelligence is to help people stay hale and hearty so they don’t have to visit a doctor, or at least not so frequently. Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) are already helping people by shifting the paradigm from “reactive healthcare” to “proactive patient care”. The combination of AI and IoTM will make connected healthcare monitoring devices smarter and intelligent over time.  AI and the massive amounts of data generated by IoMT can also be used to make inferences and predict diagnosis depending on complex analysis algorithms.

Different AI-powered healthy lifestyle apps like MyFitnessPal and HealthTap encourage healthy behavior in individuals with proactive management of a healthy lifestyle, giving humans complete control of health and well-being. These AI-powered apps provide better feedback, guidance, and support for staying healthy. 

Dr. AI, HealthTap’s AI backend, learns about patient’s symptoms over time and guides them on the next steps of care like sending treatment reminders, providing text-based answers collated from historical data, doctor-authored guides, and online video conference consultations. 

Can we trust the use of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare?

The promise of artificial intelligence to improve patient outcomes and cut-down healthcare costs is very intriguing. However, the thought of putting medical decisions in the hands of robots is likely to raise a few eyebrows. But, if it can render faster medication and diagnose diseases early, it is a push in the right direction that should be embraced and encouraged for the betterment of humankind. AI in healthcare will definitely prove to be a transformative technology, saving lives with more innovations driving the adoption of AI further.