Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly impacting on all areas of modern life and healthcare is no exception. It seems likely that in the future, this will be the way forward in resolving complex issues of ever decreasing budget, increasing cost and strains on healthcare resources against the need to efficiently process patients who come through the system.
Potentially AI can offer additional benefits which the current system cannot provide and this is particularly apparent in diagnostic techniques such as scanning and testing. Those working in this area of research are looking at whether machines can be trained to process diagnostic tests at speed and with a potentially greater degree of accuracy and consistency than at present. This might mean more tests can be undertaken because there would be increased resources to deal with them.
Currently X Ray, CT and MRI imaging as well as Pathological tests are reviewed by eye with the technician or clinician being highly trained to spot anomalies that might suggest disease or injury.
How does it work?
AI in this area works by having machines trained to scour images but this requires processing of vast amounts of past data as they need to be programmed to spot all possible variations that might suggest disease or injury.
The most recent programme that has been reported is the collaboration between Moorfields Eye Hospital and Google’s AI division DeepMind. The current research aims to use a million anonymised eye scans to train the computers.
While concern has been expressed about data sharing with these programmes and the protection of confidential patient data, the hospital has made it clear that any patient can opt out of the data sharing system.
Professor Sir Peng Tee Khaw of Moorfields Hospital said:
Our research with DeepMind has the potential to revolutionise the way professionals carry out eye tests and could lead to earlier detection and treatment of common eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration.’
Over the next few years there are likely to be more and more projects of this kind and there are collaborations, for example looking at producing an APP that would notify doctors of patients who would be at risk of developing acute kidney injury.
Is this a ‘doctor-less’ future?
AI is often feared as a threat to humans but there are many positives in this area of medicine and it has the potential to help ease the pressures threatening the current structure of healthcare. Doctors will still be there but their skills will be applied to less process driven work.
In the field of Clinical Negligence, we currently see many cases of avoidable patient harm. If machines can be highly trained to meet the human standard this could go some way to revolutionising Patient Safety in modern medicine and reduce pain, suffering and heartache for many.
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