AI Transforms Healthcare

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AI Transforms Healthcare

The game-changing technology of open-source artificial intelligence that we discussed this month in Trend #3 will dramatically transform countless industries.  Let’s explore how AI will unleash the biggest revolution in healthcare since the discovery of penicillin.

No industry is more ripe for disruption than the U.S. healthcare industry, which faces such problems as:

  • Drug development obstacles that require pharmaceutical companies to pay billions to develop a life-saving new treatment, and then wait a dozen years for FDA approval.
  • Inefficient twentieth century practices in doctors’ offices and hospitals that lead to long waiting times for patients and mountains of paperwork for doctors.
  • A critical shortage of doctors at the same time that the population is aging and putting even more pressure on the health care system; by 2050, one in five Americans will be over the age of 65.
  • Costs that are outpacing inflation and spiraling out of control. According to government estimates, Americans will spend $4.8 trillion on healthcare in 2021, accounting for 20 percent of GDP.  That’s nearly double the $2.6 trillion spent in 2010, and 64 times the $75 billion spent in 1970.1 
  • A system that encourages doctors to order excessive tests and procedures in order to avoid malpractice suits. According to estimates by PricewaterhouseCoopers, as much as $1.2 trillion a year of healthcare spending is wasted on treatments that patients don’t even need.2

The good news is that innovations based on artificial intelligence offer solutions to all of these problems. 

For example, an AI system could recognize speech, analyze images, absorb all of the knowledge in all of the world’s medical journals, detect patterns from a patient’s symptoms, and then produce an accurate diagnosis. 

Not surprisingly, leading tech firms are working on AI projects targeting healthcare.  According to IBM, by 2020, the amount of medical data is expected to double every seventy-three days.  Wired.com reported that a doctor would have to spend 160 hours a week to read the new medical research that is published.3 

Clearly, there’s no way that any doctor or hospital could keep up with that deluge of data.  But IBM’s Watson supercomputer needs only fifteen seconds to read 40 million documents.  It can also look for patterns in the medical records of 1.5 million patients.  And since IBM recently acquired Merge Healthcare, Watson can compare any photograph, X-ray, or MRI of a patient to Merge’s archive of thirty billion medical images...

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