How Innovation and AI will Change Health Care
April 12, 2023
One of the most common questions seen online and heard in person in recent weeks is: “Will Artificial Intelligence (AI) replace me?”
It’s a question being asked by people in all types of fields and careers, and it’s a valid one. A recent McKinsey study showed that CEOs ranked “disruptive technologies” as one of the biggest factors they will contend with in running their organizations in 2023. And so will the people who work for them.
In health care, where research seems to spawn near-daily innovation, the same question might lead to even greater concerns.
So I will offer some specific examples of where we already use, or will further use, AI to innovate and why – as well as what its effects will be on caregivers and patients.
There are two types of innovation in health care: one is systemic innovation, when we re-design processes and procedures to improve speed or accuracy. AI could contribute greatly to that.
The other is the innovation that occurs at the point of care, for example, in medical devices used in robot-assisted surgery. Those allow doctors to perform complex procedures with more precision, a reduction of errors and a lessening of fatigue than in conventional surgery. If you’ve had laparoscopic surgery with tiny incisions, you have likely received the benefits of this.
AI includes natural language processing, which takes “real-world” input and processes it to make sense of it in a way that a computer can understand. These already have, and will further, revolutionize health care, with an impact on diagnoses and patient outcomes.
Digitized algorithms also will be crucial in developing personalized treatment plans, in drug discovery, or supply chain enhancement, to mention a few.
Here is a crucial point - our role as stewards of innovation in delivering care is to assess which innovations truly address an unmet need, and which are merely exciting solutions searching for a use-case. Our decisions will be based on value and impact.
These tools will not replace a human being, but they will supplement and augment the provider’s role, which will improve the patient experience and clinical outcomes.
AI has been used in health care in ways that are likely familiar. They include gene editing, personalized treatment design, nanotechnologies and revolutions in drug discovery. Innovations like blockchain ensure secure storing and conveyance of patient data. Some patients have even had the immersive experience created by the combination of virtual and augmented reality, which can help them digitally experience a treatment or procedure before they undergo it, reducing their anxiety or fear. As we speak, we are partnering with a company out of the United Kingdom to offer this to our pediatric patients.
AI will also help improve accuracy in medical imaging - CTs and MRIs - as well as reduce errors and cut time to treatment.
For example, when scanning images of a lesion in a lung, a radiologist might have seen several dozen such lesions throughout their career, whereas the AI-driven counterpart might have been trained on a data set of millions of such images. Innovation has brought us quantum computing, which will enable us to analyze enormous amounts of disparate data at a speed never previously imagined.
But it will still take a caregiver to interpret and translate what is seen, especially in light of all that he or she knows about the patient.
In health care, AI brings the ability to create and pre-empt diseases and conditions so we can intervene far earlier. UH is partnering with the company TempTraq, using a continuous temperature monitoring patch. That enables us to predict neutropenia (a temperature level that indicates a fever) up to eight hours earlier than the current standard of care. The result means staving off infections for bone marrow transplant patients.
In myriad ways, AI can shorten the distance between a concept and a solution, between discoveries and outcomes. But developing prototypes and proof of concepts remains mandatory, because no matter what the data seem to show, we must use our insights, knowledge and experience as caregivers to arrive at the optimal solution.
Recently, Barry Stein, MD, Chief Clinical Innovation Officer and Chief Medical Informatics Officer of Hartford HealthCare in Connecticut, spoke to a class of medical students at Case Western Reserve University. One student asked, “Will the robots replace us? Will we eventually be redundant?”
Dr. Stein’s answer: “AI and robots will only replace those of us who don’t know how to use them.”
The best medicine will always be delivered not only with the benefit of science, but with the art of compassion, which is a hallmark of UH. It takes the interaction of a caregiver with a patient to provide that.
And that will never change.