How AI is Impacting Healthcare

From virtual assistants to facial recognition to personalization, AI (artificial intelligence) plays a large role in our everyday lives. We have grown accustomed to having these digital personal assistants make our lives easier and having “smart” homes and cars. Now, there is a lot of excitement about how AI is going to change healthcare. AI technologies are being used to help streamline administrative and health care processes. According to venture capital firm Rock Health, 121 health AI and machine learning companies raised $2.7 billion in 206 deals between 2011 and 2017.


One of AI’s biggest potential benefits is to help people stay healthy so they don’t need a doctor as frequently. Wearable technology and apps encourage individuals to lead healthier lives, and take control of their well-being. According to Mark Michalski, executive director of Massachusetts General Hospital, “2018 will be the year AI becomes real for medicine. In 2018, we’ll begin the adoption of a technology that may truly transform the way providers work, and the way patients experience healthcare, on a global scale.”

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Digital assistants aren’t limited to our home life; AI-powered virtual nurse assistants are starting to gain recognition for their potential. UCSF and the UK’s NHS are using Sensely’s “Molly”, an AI-powered nurse avatar, to interact with patients, ask questions about their health, assess symptoms and direct them to the most effective care. According to Harvard Business Review, these AI nurse assistants could potentially save $20 billion annually by saving 20% of the time nurses spend on patient maintenance tasks.


A common, and expensive, issue for healthcare providers and insurers is error and/or fraud. Fraud detection has relied on tedious manual reviews of medical claims, and requires being able to quickly spot inconsistencies. Health insurers are experimenting with AI-supported data-mining to search Medicare claims for patterns associated with medical fraud. This could result in $17 billion in savings by improving the speed and accuracy of fraud detection in Medicare claims.


Pathologists have traditionally diagnosed diseases by laboring over a microscope, a tedious task that is prone to human error. Recently, however, a Harvard-based team demonstrated how AI can help pinpoint cancer cells among samples of breast tissue cells. The technique can differentiate cancer cells from normal cells with a 92% accuracy. When tested against human pathologist, however, the pathologists won, with their ability to identify 96% of the biopsy samples with cancer cells. So while this does not replace the pathologist, using in tandem, AI and pathologists were able to identify 99.5% of the cancerous biopsies.

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