For me, the greatest tech innovation over the last 25 years has been AI and its ability to transform the healthcare sector.
In the UK, it’s no secret that accessing healthcare has become problematic. Records show that the number of people in England waiting for routine hospital treatment has soared to another record high. To add to the problem – as my colleague Hazel Jasmine Weller pointed out in her blog on the health and technology wellness boom – we are currently the unhealthiest nation to exist, creating further strain on our already overwhelmed health service.
But there is hope. AI offers a real opportunity to transform our healthcare industry by being able to detect diseases faster, reduce overall costs of care, and improve patient outcomes by making quicker and better decisions that humans alone cannot do.
One of its use cases includes AI-assisted robotic surgery, where robots analyse pre-op data and guide a surgeon’s instrument during surgery. Its success was demonstrated in one study of 379 orthopedic patients, showing that AI-assisted robotic procedures resulted in five times fewer complications than surgeons operating alone. Unfortunately, human mistakes in surgery aren’t as rare as you think, with 629 blunder operations and other errors occurring within the NHS in 2019.
Similarly, AI-powered virtual nurse assistants can provide round-the-clock care by answering patient questions and monitoring their vital signs – something that could save the healthcare industry $20bn annually. With staff leaving the healthcare sector at an alarming rate, virtual assistants could plug the gaps and the money saved spent on paying staff appropriately.
AI-powered health apps
Another huge benefit is its ability to detect diseases and help people stay healthy through AI-powered apps and devices. At CES this year, Finnish brand Withings introduced the U-Scan device that can monitor medical conditions and even identify signs of pancreatic and prostate cancer. So not only is it quicker to detect diseases than going to your doctor but the technology can be deployed to the masses for rapid cancer screening. It’s a win-win.
AI enabling accessibility
Clearly, AI has the ability to make healthcare more accessible for the masses – something I am very passionate about. As we move forward into a more connected digital world, using AI in the healthcare industry will become an invaluable asset that will revolutionise access to healthcare. It can drastically improve the time it takes to access healthcare, as well as reshape how doctors treat patients and deliver their care.
With such great potential, it is clear that using AI in healthcare promises a future filled with improved patient outcomes and experiences. The greatest challenge for AI in healthcare is not whether the technology will be capable enough but rather its adoption by UK policymakers. The NHS has been incredibly slow to embrace technological innovation, but I am hopeful that this will be a reality in the near future and, in the process, make healthcare more affordable and accessible for all.