Medical professionals don’t have to fear digitalization

AI in the Healthcare Sector: A Leap Towards Personalized Medicine and Significant Relief for Doctors

By Michael Stockhammer

Do doctors need to fear being replaced by Artificial Intelligence (AI)? No, they do not. They need to be aware that they will one day in the near future be replaced by doctors who use AI applications. The numbers speak for themselves: AI in healthcare has seen a significant rise over the last couple of years, especially in radiology. The 2017 PwC DIQ Survey found that 39% of healthcare managers were planning to invest in artificial intelligence, which indicates its rapid growth. When it comes to quick, accurate, and personalized diagnostics, AI algorithms and their ability to process big data in cloud-based environments provide the ideal support for medical experts. By the example of radiology, where conclusions and subsequent clinical decisions can be made within seconds via access to large databases of CT and MRI images all around the world, the benefits of big data analysis become evident: AI applications have access to more data than any expert could ever learn. Furthermore, MRI images show patterns that the human eye cannot detect. This kind of data transparency will help identify rare diseases or uncommon variations of common diseases. Naturally, the more doctors participate in cloud-based AI collaboration and digitize their data, the faster the development towards comprehensive data bases will proceed, since algorithms need to be provided with validated data sequences that detail treatments and corresponding survival rates. “The job description of a radiologist is going to change. But it goes without saying that we will continue to need radiologists. Artificial Intelligence is a support tool for making a more accurate diagnosis and being able to work more quickly, since in future we are all going to have to get to grips with an explosion in the amount of data we are confronted with”, says Prof. Mathias Goyen, Chief Medical Officer Europe at GE Healthcare.   Patients of the future: Digital Twins Prof. Mathias Goyen moreover compares the patient of the future with the digital twin used in other technologies, where the term is used to describe an identical copy of a device in order to determine its individual maintenance or repair requirements. At GE Healthcare, this started out with transferring the large amount of operating data of CT systems to a computer system in order to calculate its maintenance plan. Transferring this concept to medical technology could generate a digital twin of a patient in order to evaluate radiological data in conjunction with in vivo and in vitro data. Analyzing this information that may include data from the electronic patient folder, or even smartwatches and fitness trackers, will support the doctor in making more accurate and quicker diagnoses and clinical decisions. While evidence-based medicine mainly relies on studies conducted for a collective of patients rather than individuals, AI is a step towards precision medicine with its capacity to capture and compare individualized sets of data. Mission Control Centers Improve Patient Comfort and Clinical Efficiency Considering the shortage of medical specialists and healthcare workers, hospitals, medical practices, and patients equally benefit from the efficiency that the combination of AI and human clinical expertise creates. For doctors and medical staff, cloud-based solutions present a huge relief of their workload, be it on the field of diagnostics or other relevant healthcare resources like patient administration. For patients, shorter waiting times for hospital beds, faster transfers to other units or hospitals and more comfortable diagnostic measures are among the many advantages that AI has to offer. According to the American Medical Association, doctors spend up to six hours a day with electronic health records without providing actual patient care. Institutions like the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) that have introduced the GE Healthcare Command Center are mastering their resources on a whole new level of efficiency by using AI applications. With control centers like the GE Command Center, the future is already here. AI will by no means supersede the interpretive expertise of human doctors and the knowledge of trained medical staff. However, medical professionals with expertise in advanced technologies, such as AI, and those with access to these technologies, will have a big competitive advantage. Looking at the German speaking markets – Germany, Austria and Switzerland - in particular, we recognize that there is an increasing shortage in medical professionals, especially for radiologists and medical technical assistants (MTA), whilst at the same time the demand for medical support increases. This development increases pressure for medical professionals and hospitals, fighting for staying profitable and keeping up high quality care for their patients. Making use of advanced technology can help solving these challenges so medical professionals and hospitals will be able to bridge the gap between available resources and increasing demand. Michael Stockhammer is General Manager at GE Healthcare Germany, Austria and Switzerland.