Putting patients first with Artificial Intelligence

What is important to remember is that at the heart of this transformation lies the patient


We all make use of the healthcare system one day or another. However, even though there have been massive leaps in these past decades, there are still several shortcomings.

Health Information Systems, combined with Artificial Intelligence (AI), can make an enormous difference in the life of the patients while assisting health practitioners in their day-to-day job.

It is essential to realise that the situation was not always like it is today. Towards the turn of the millennium, the Institute of Medicine reported that around 100,000 people lose their lives, every year, in the United States due to medical errors. The tragic thing about this fact is that many of these errors are easily avoidable.

There have been several cases where doctors prescribed medications to patients who were allergic to them. In these cases, the doctors did not notice the allergy note in the patient’s records and this error caused the eventual death of the patient.

A computerised system helps precisely to setup similar checks-and-balances within the system, thus reducing human errors and making the processes safer for the patient.

These days, most modern hospitals already have such systems in place, but with the recent advancements in Artificial Intelligence, they can now go to the next level.

The following are some examples of AI systems currently being developed or used in our hospitals. They deal with three very different aspects; the first assists in the hospital administration, the second helps patients in their care, and the third one supports caregivers.

Hospitals are always striving to become more efficient without sacrificing the service given to their patients. Many of them are deploying medicinal robots aimed at helping doctors and nurses prescribe the correct medicine. Such robots are capable of tracing all the medication they provide to patients; they can prepare the exact dosage and double-check with any conditions specified in the patient’s file.

A smart trolley, capable of navigating the hospital on its own, then delivers the medicine to the specific ward. Such a system eliminates prescription errors, saves the hospital around 30% on inventory and eliminates all losses related to expired drugs.

Patients lie at the heart of the healthcare system. Because of this, organisations strive to improve their service, especially when the younger ones are involved. Many hospitals are using Virtual Reality (VR) headsets to help young patients shift their focus; from the treatment which they are receiving to something entertaining such as a computer game.

This approach is known as distraction therapy and works surprisingly well; in some cases, patients reported a reduction in pain of almost 50%. The great thing about distraction therapy is that patients do not need to take any medicine, thus reducing the risks of allergies, pain killer addiction and many others.

Caregivers do a great job, but we all know that their work is challenging and in some cases, tedious. Because of this, AI is being used to facilitate those tasks which can be automated.

The use of AI does not imply that it will replace caregivers, far from it. The human element in the caregiving profession is still crucial, and there will not be any changes any time soon. However, AI will take over those tasks which require repetitive analysis and help the caregiver accelerate the whole process.

A case in point is the study of movement in people, commonly referred to as “Gait Analysis”. In this case, a camera tracking system takes footage of the patient’s mobility. The physiotherapist then analysis the vast amounts of data obtained.

This process lasts many hours typically; however, an AI system can reduce the time taken to a few seconds. Of course, human intuition is still very much essential to validate the automated analysis, but at least, there is an overall time saving for the caregivers.

In this article, we only selected three simple use cases which one can find in many hospitals, but we barely scratched the tip of the iceberg.

The healthcare industry uses AI in many applications such as in the identification of cancer cells, in the process of drug creation, to conduct robotic surgeons, health monitoring and many others.

What is important to remember is that at the heart of this transformation lies the patient.

AI is the most powerful tool ever created by man, and its medical applications will save many more lives in the years to come.

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