The Most Important Applications of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare

Medical assistance robot / Photo by 123RF


A self-running engine of growth was how AI was depicted in a recent report published by global management consulting firm Accenture, according to Deena Zaidi, writing for Venture Beat.

The Accenture report claimed that AI could possibly save US$150 billion for the US healthcare economy by 2026. The report also highlighted 10 AI applications that will have a significant impact on health care in the near future.

Robotic surgery, virtual nursing assistants, and administrative workflow assistance were the top three applications cited in the report.


Robotic Surgery

The near-term value of robotic surgery is US$40 billion, according to the Accenture report. Minimally invasive is the hallmark of robotic surgery, where small incisions and miniaturized surgical instruments are used so patients can recover quicker and suffer less discomfort.

Cognitive surgical robotics integrate data from existing medical records with real-time operating metrics to improve surgical outcomes. The technique increases surgical precision and reduces by 21 percent patients’ length of stay in hospitals.

The Da Vinci Surgical System enables surgeons to accomplish elaborate surgeries with greater flexibility and control than standard procedures. Regarded as the world’s most advanced surgical robot, the Da Vinci system is equipped with surgical instruments attached to robotic limbs and offers a highly-accurate and magnified three-dimensional view of the surgical site. The robot’s arms are controlled by a surgeon seated in front of a computer console near the operating table. The machine allows surgeries to be performed in tight spaces and reduces the chances of surgical errors.

Besides Da Vinci, surgeons also have the Heartlander to help them in cardiac surgeries. The Heartlander is a miniature mobile robot that can penetrate the human chest through an incision below the sternum. Using the robot lessens the damage needed to gain entry to the human heart and enables the use of a single device in conducting stable and localized sensing, mapping, and treatment over the entire surface of the heart. The robot clings to the epicardial surface of the heart and can navigate to the desired location.



Virtual Nursing Assistants

According to the Accenture report, virtual nursing assistants have a near-term value of US$20 billion. Virtual nursing assistants hold out the promise of reducing unneeded hospital visits by remotely analyzing a patient’s symptoms and delivering alerts to healthcare professionals only when patient care is needed. They also lessen the burden imposed on medical professionals, saving nurses 20 percent of the available time when unnecessary visits are not made. As virtual nursing assistants get more familiar in diagnosing patients’ conditions, their capabilities will expand beyond routinary triage and will encompass making recommendations for treating patients.

Uninterrupted access to answers and support, 24-hour monitoring, and immediate answers to questions about medications are some of the reasons why 64 percent of patients surveyed by Syneos Health Communications are comfortable with virtual nursing assistants.

Such rosy prospects for the future of virtual nursing assistants have enabled San Francisco-based Sensely to raise US$ 8 million in Series B funding to deploy AI-enabled nursing avatars to patients and clinics. The nursing avatars help promote communication between patients and healthcare providers between clinic visits and prevent hospital readmissions. The most popular avatar has the name Molly, which is equipped with a proprietary classification engine and listens and responds to users.

Angel is the name of the virtual nursing assistant from Care Angel, which gives wellness checks through voice and AI to improve medical outcomes at a lower cost. Angel manages, monitors, and communicates using distinct insights and real-time notifications.   


Artificial kneecap / Photo by 123RF


Administrative Workflow Assistance

Automation of administrative workflow enables healthcare providers to prioritize important matters and help medical professionals save time on routine tasks, such as voice-to-text transcriptions, writing chart notes, prescribing medicines, and ordering tests. Doctors can save up to 17 percent of their working time and 51 percent for nurses by automating administrative workflow.

One of the companies offering such services is Nuance, which develops AI-enabled solutions that use machine learning to reduce the time needed for recording patient documentation and improving reporting quality. Computer-aided physician documentation developed by Nuance ensures that comprehensive clinical histories and consistent clinical recommendations are given to patients.

On the other hand, IBM and Cleveland Clinic have formed a partnership whose goal is to improve clinical care and administrative operations. The joint venture will use the Watson AI system in mining big data and assist physicians in dispensing a more personalized treatment experience. Watson’s natural language processing capabilities permit healthcare providers to quickly and accurately study voluminous medical papers aimed at improving patient care and reducing medical costs.

Likewise, John Hopkins Hospital and GE Healthcare Camden Group have formed an initiative aimed at improving patient care and efficiency by developing hospital command centers equipped with predictive analytics. The command centers will help healthcare professionals make quick and informed decisions for tasks such as bed assignment scheduling and requesting for unit assistance.