Artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t a new idea, but it’s only in recent years that our technology has caught up to the point at which it has practical uses. We’re a long way away from true artificial intelligence like the human-like robots and computers that we see in science fiction movies, but we are at least in a place where AI can outperform human beings at certain tasks.
And AI could be particularly powerful in the health care industry. One piece of research from Accenture found that key clinical health AI applications can potentially create $150 billion in annual savings for the US health care economy by 2026. Another report from Tractica found that the AI health care market will be worth $34 billion by 2025.
AI is great at performing repetitive tasks, and there’s no shortage of them in the health care industry. In the United States, physicians spend more time filling out electronic health records (EHRs) than they do interacting with patients. If artificial intelligence could take on the bulk of that record keeping, it would free up their time to spend it with patients. In fact, it would have the same impact as hiring hundreds of thousands of new doctors.
AI has multiple impacts across the entire healthcare industry, but they can typically be categorized as aiding with one or more of the following.
The short answer is no, or not all. Historically, technology has created jobs instead of destroying them, and this holds true all the way back to the industrial revolution. According to Gartner, AI will have eliminated 1.8 million jobs by 2020. At the same time, it will create 2.3 million new jobs, leading to an overall increase of 500,000. Other predictions are similarly optimistic.
Part of this is because of the way that AI and physicians would likely interact. AI-powered clinical decision support tools could provide physicians with suggestions based on hard data, but it would be down to physicians and their patients to take this data and to decide together on the best way to proceed.
But on top of that, there’s just something about health care that calls for a human touch. Just imagine that you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer. Would you prefer to be told the news by an emotionless robot that’s nothing more than an algorithm, or would you prefer to be told by a friendly family doctor?
Artificial intelligence goes hand-in-hand with machine learning, natural language processing and other technologies, all of which can be combined to process the huge amounts of big data that we create on a daily basis. In the health care industry, being able to process this data and to draw new conclusions isn’t just a matter of making money — it’s a matter of life and death.
It won’t be long until artificial intelligence is being used as standard practice throughout the health care industry, and that’s good news for all of us. After all, we’ll all become patients at some point in our lives, and AI has the potential to usher in a new era of health care in which we’re all treated with personalized health care plans based on data and not just the results of clinical trials.
And the good news is that we won’t even lose our doctors. AI won’t replace them — it’ll just help to make them more efficient. It’s a true case of man and machine working better together than either could in isolation, and it spells a bright future for all of us.