The world of artificial intelligence (A.I.) has exploded in recent weeks as scientists, researchers, and programmers make breakthrough after breakthrough in the race to create computers that think for themselves. Whether it’s self-driving cars, Google attempting to rewrite neural networks to better help computers “understand” what they’re “seeing”, or the country of Saudi Arabia granting citizenship to a robot, one thing is clear: artificial intelligence is no longer something out of Star Trek, but something we may start seeing in our daily lives.
But what do all these advances mean for the world of healthcare? Quite a lot, it turns out.
Because AI is able to process images and identify patterns quickly, one of the top healthcare applications is in oncology—spotting and diagnosing various types of cancer. One of the most recent breakthroughs was just made in the detection of colon cancer.
“The most remarkable breakthrough with this system is that artificial intelligence enables real-time optical biopsy of colorectal polyps during colonoscopy, regardless of the endoscopists’ skill,” explains Dr Yuichi Mori, one of the project leads.
The diagnostic program, assisted by AI, is able to check nearly 300 features of polyps found in the colon… all in less than a second. And the results are incredible—of the 306 polyps examined in the test, the AI performed “with a 94 percent sensitivity, 79 percent specificity, and 86 percent accuracy. In identifying abnormal tissue growth, the system demonstrated 79 percent positive and 93 percent negative predictive values.”
In other words, it’s a program that’s very fast, very accurate, and could very well be saving lives soon.
Another team took AI in a similar route, using a Google algorithm originally built to identify pictures of cats and dogs, and turning it into a system to identify melanoma.
And the computers aren’t stopping at just identifying cancer. IBM’s Watson (the supercomputer that won Jeopardy in 2011) is also being used to help prescribe treatments once cancer is spotted. And not only did Watson’s suggestions match doctors’ suggestions 99% of the time, the computer suggested additional options that human doctors had missed in 30% of the tests.
AI is even being used to help spot suicidal tendencies in mental health patients.
That’s a lot of technology developing in just a short amount of time, and the breakthroughs will come faster and faster as AI becomes more and more commonplace. But there’s no reason to fret about the robots taking our health care jobs just yet. These new technologies make it easier for doctors and nurses to spot details and make diagnoses, they help prevent mistakes, and they help keep health care quality uniform from office to office, hospital to hospital. But at the end of the day, it’s still the human touch—your touch—that makes the difference in a patient’s life.
Computers may be expanding health care’s collective brain, but nurses will always be at the heart.
For more information on becoming a nurse or medical assistant, contact Unitek College today.