Artificial intelligence (AI), a machine’s ability to learn from experience and solve problems, may sound futuristic, but it is actually all around you, every day. Perhaps the most familiar application is through social media, where the platforms you visit learn from your behavior and then offer personalized suggestions and a customized news feed. AI is also hard at work categorizing your emails, spell checking your documents, and helping banks root out fraud.
While AI is present in nearly every industry today, perhaps nowhere is it more revolutionary than healthcare. The ways AI is transforming the practice of medicine are vast and varied, touching nearly every aspect of the field.
Helping Spread the Word
Health care providers, including hospitals, clinics, and private practices, strive to provide their patients with quality care and excellent customer service. After all, their professional reputation and financial success depend on it. The use of AI in marketing is a great strategy for administrators. It can automate and customize patient-specific communications, disseminate helpful information to the public, and help build the facility’s reputation as being on the cutting-edge. Because AI is at work behind the scenes performing traditionally human but repetitive tasks, staff have more time for critical customer interactions and the freedom to focus on the more rewarding aspects of their jobs.
Improving the Patient Experience
Efficient operation of a hospital or practice means patients can be seen and treated promptly, which translates to a better customer experience and increased revenue for the facility. AI has many applications for streamlining processes, including prioritizing illnesses and injuries in the emergency room, optimizing the scheduling of appointments, gathering and analyzing patient information, and even predict when a patient is likely to need extra attention. Facilities that have implemented AI techniques consistently report an increased ability to admit, treat, and discharge patients efficiently. Patients report higher satisfaction with their overall experience, largely due to less time spent in the facility, better interactions with providers, and less confusion during the encounter.
Increasing Access to Care
One particularly beneficial use of AI is increasing access to healthcare for remote or otherwise underserved communities. For people who find it difficult to get to a doctor due to distance, lack of transportation, disability, financial constraints, or other reasons, AI-powered chatbots can bridge the gap. By interacting with patients, asking pertinent questions, and analyzing the answers, the bot can facilitate a virtual check-in for a video appointment or recommend a face-to-face visit with a professional when indicated.
Another way AI serves at-risk populations is through the use of wearable medical devices like heart monitors. The patient can be monitored remotely through AI, which scans the data continuously and alerts medical professionals when an intervention is indicated.
Enhancing Surgical Procedures
When thinking about the use of AI in medical settings, the operating room of a hospital may not be the first place that comes to mind, but it has an important role there as well. Robot-assisted surgery is one of medicine’s fastest-growing trends, and indications are that it will continue to grow. Studies show that patients who undergo this type of surgery, whether a minimally-invasive or a major procedure, report less pain, quicker healing, and fewer complications.
Using robots outfitted with mechanical arms, surgical instruments, and sophisticated cameras, surgeons control the procedure from a computer console. The robot’s camera provides a magnified view of the surgical site in 3D, which is much more detailed than what surgeons could otherwise see. The robot’s precision, combined with the surgeon’s knowledge and skill, makes it easier for complex procedures to be performed successfully.
Artificial intelligence will never fully replace humans when it comes to healthcare. Treating a patient requires empathy and kindness, traits a machine does not possess. But when used strategically in conjunction with highly-trained and compassionate practitioners, AI will continue to revolutionize and improve the practice of medicine to the benefit of patients and practitioners alike.