Arab Health: Artificial Intelligence 'will take over routine check-ups'

Quick and early diagnosis using technology will lead to better recovery rates

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A shift in the way health care is delivered — with more collection of personal biodata and a greater reliance on Artificial Intelligence — will shape care systems of the future, experts said.

Speaking at Arab Health, the region’s largest medical conference, health sector professionals said emerging trends showed data would dominate with more hospitals turning to AI to automate their work.

As data collection from patients becomes more efficient, and technology more adept at analysis, experts at the event at Dubai World Trade Centre say medics should be freed up to spend more time delivering the human touch to those in need of care.

Appointments from home

Dr Alan Kennedy, founder of PulseAI — a digital health company using machine learning to improve diagnostics — said technology could free up hospital waiting rooms.

“The dream is that in the near future, people won’t have to go to the hospital or GP clinic as they can be remotely monitored in their own home,” he said.

“The tools are already there, like wearable biometric devices, watches and rings that collect data, but the challenge is having good enough artificial intelligence software for accurate analysis.

“The value comes from improving accuracy and efficiency, so radiologists and doctors do not have to manually go through huge amounts of data.”

Cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer remain the most common causes of death, with advanced AI algorithms capable of providing a more accurate reading of a patient’s risk.

As advanced screening and diagnostic technology becomes more widespread, so has the amount of health data generated.

Definitive results

PulseAI has been licensed by smart device manufacturers to be integrated into everyday wearable devices to help individuals understand their heart.

During its research, the company evaluated more than a million electrocardiograms from seven different countries, each annotated by a cardiologist or emergency physician, to compare results with those analysed by its AI algorithm.

Normally, if a doctor is not sure whether the results indicate an abnormality, they will mark the test as inconclusive and ask the patient to return for another.

By using the software, the number of inconclusive reports reduced from around 20 per cent, to 1 per cent.

“Studies are showing continuous monitoring is the most effective form of diagnosis,” said Dr Kennedy.

“Patients get a better quality of surveillance of their condition, and then earlier treatment with better outcomes.

“Ultimately, AI will free up time for medical professionals to spend elsewhere, particularly in cardiology and radiology.”

Advanced AI algorithms can provide users with a more accurate reading of their risk from heart disease, particularly if they are facing a heart attack or an irregular heartbeat.

Catching abnormalities early

Wearable technology not only helps users if they face a medical emergency, but also identifies a condition before it becomes problematic.

Robots and AI proved its worth in health care during the pandemic, as it learned how best to disinfect public areas, deliver packages, and predict how fast the virus was spreading, to manage the flow of people.

Algorithms are now so advanced, they can track breathing rates and the severity of a patient’s cough to diagnose disease.

Other trends likely to appear in healthcare systems of the future included how to deal with stress, growth of medical tourism and more emphasis on well-being technologies and preventive care.

As health technology in the form of wearable devices, smartphone apps and digital health data continues to penetrate our lives, AI will continue to fundamentally change health care of the future.

Better use of time

With about 70 per cent of healthcare organisations across Europe and the US already using some AI to automate work, the importance of human-machine collaboration has never been more apparent, according to Kevin Lev, from the healthcare informatics division of Philips.

“Doctors who embrace artificial intelligence in radiology and elsewhere will ultimately perform better than those who don’t,” he said.

“Radiologists are often overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data they have.

“It is a bad use of their time to go over scores of regulation chest X-rays that could take up 70 per cent of their work.

“That can be covered by AI, to rule out potential disease and provide a better insight for more complicated cases that require further investigation.

“Three years ago physicians would have been concerned that AI could replace them.

“Now they are seeing the opportunities that are created to make their work more efficient.”

Updated: February 06, 2023, 8:31 AM