Will AI be the future of medical technology?

Will AI be the future of medical technology?

For the last couple of centuries, technology has largely been influencing the way humankind practices medicine. The invention of the smallpox vaccine, the discovery of penicillin, and the rapid expansion of pharmacology have completely transformed the medical field.

Nowadays, doctors and other medical professionals are becoming more and more reliant on advanced technology to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases, disorders, and other medical conditions.

Paving the way with AI

Technological influences are evident in practically every corner of any medical facility, from cardiograph machines to life support and medical monitors. Old and new technologies coexist in order to assist with the dozens of different tasks performed in hospitals and other facilities in a daily basis.

What many people may not be aware of, however, is that artificial intelligence is also playing an increasingly important role in the medical field. While some may be wary of allowing a seemingly cold and impersonal force determine their medical fate, medical professionals have long-since recognized the value of such applications.

When we think of AI, we tend to think of an advanced technology with its own consciousness. The reality of artificial intelligence, however, is much simpler. More specifically, it refers to complex algorithms that are able to adapt to new processes and provide (contextually relevant) information to a user.

The diagnosis and treatment of virtually any medical condition can be assisted with the use of AI. This can include anything from a skin condition to a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Though AI in medicine is still in its very early stages, the results are incredibly promising with several real-world applications which have already saved lives across the world.

AI applications

The world’s most famous supercomputer, IBM’s Watson, has been put to the test in a variety of different ways. Quiz show enthusiasts may know the supercomputer from its victory on Jeopardy! but those in the medial field may also be aware of other aspects of its work.

In 2016, Watson successfully diagnosed a rare form of leukemia in a 60-year-old woman after doctors had spent months trying to come up with a correct diagnosis. To put matters into perspective, Watson went through 20 million related papers and offered not only a diagnosis but also the most effective course of treatment, all within 10 minutes.

Such applications via AI technology will only become more common as we move on towards more affordable and specialized applications. If Google, Apple, and Amazon can create digital assistants that are contextually aware, then creating specialized AI assistances in the medical field is certainly not far-fetched.

Diagnosis, screening, prognosis, and more

With correct applications and specialized services, there is practically no limit in the ways through which AI technology can assist the medical field. For example, doctors cannot possibly configure all the possible pathways a disease might take in the past, present, and future. For an advanced AI, however, that is small change.

Even feeding an AI assistant with one’s personal medical history as well as that of their family members may result in extremely accurate predictions for future medical conditions. Genetics will also play a huge role here, particularly as we move forward a deeper understanding of DNA.

Though our understanding of the human body has certainly evolved over the years, the help of an AI might actually assist us in discovering many more details about our physical selves. Brain disorders, for example, are in desperate need of additional research and advanced technology, something that such applications would be a perfect match for.

Simple treatments, particularly of chronic diseases, may also be helped by virtual assistants. For instance, Alphabet’s Verily is currently testing a smart contact lens which will be able to assist diabetic patients with measuring the glucose levels in their blood without having to prickle their fingers or use a glucose monitor.

Thankfully, many companies are already working on innovative AI applications which will undoubtedly change the face of the medical field. In a few decades, medical research and technology will most likely head towards more automated systems which may well help in all areas of medicine.

This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

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