From holographic surgical planning for complex procedures to predictive tools to keep patients out of hospital, artificial intelligence is playing a growing role in health care.
Robots may never replicate the human touch or the bedside manner required in the care profession, but the technology is helping medics become more efficient with their time.
AI algorithms can analyse data to identify population health patterns and offer insights to improve patient care and outcomes.
Experts say that as Al and data analytics play a bigger role than ever, digitalisation has the potential to transform care.
“Digitalisation has changed the face of the healthcare industry,” said Naser Al Riyami, chief operating officer at Burjeel Medical City in Abu Dhabi.
“It has improved access to care, enhanced patient engagement, enabled personalised medicine, and driven overall efficiency in healthcare delivery.
“Al and data analytics play a bigger role than ever in health care today.”
Meanwhile, mobile apps ease the appointment process, allowing patients to access reports, and help healthcare providers manage their conditions.
Since 2021, Burjeel Medical City has used holographic technology to improve surgical planning.
Holographic surgery is an FDA-approved system used to create replicated 3D images of a patient’s organs.
It gives surgeons greater insight into a patient before surgery, allowing them a new opportunity to familiarise themselves with the patient's anatomy before surgery.
As part of its radiation oncology programme, the hospital also uses the ExacTrac dynamic patient positioning and monitoring system by German tech firm Brainlab, which combines surface, thermal and X-ray tracking technology to achieve pinpoint accuracy during treatment.
“AI algorithms can help us identify patients at risk of developing certain conditions, allowing for earlier intervention and treatment,” said Mr Al Riyami.
“In personalised medicine, AI algorithms can also identify patterns that can help healthcare providers customise treatments.”
Despite progressive steps, limitations have been found in some areas of health care.
In radiology, researchers at Hospital Cochin in Paris found the OpenAI ChatGPT interface gave incomplete or inaccurate answers to questions posed by interventional radiologists.
When asked for the treatment for bleeding after a Whipple procedure — a major surgery to remove part of the pancreas in cancer patients — the same procedure was reported three times, but with three different descriptions by the AI software.
Researchers concluded ChaptGPT and similar chatbot models were capable of generating coherent, grammatically correct text, but were unable to respond accurately to more specific, technical questions.
The findings were published in the Canadian Association of Radiologists Journal.
Elsewhere in the UAE, Prime Hospital is one centre to adopt AI to help manage patient flow.
It uses an AI global healthcare technology platform called Heaps to track deviations in a patient’s care to ensure the right interventions are made.
The system allows health professionals to monitor patients with chronic conditions and predict what could go wrong with their future care, so a more proactive approach is taken to keep them out of hospital.
“The primary objective is to reduce the rate of avoidable hospitalisation and repeat hospitalisation,” said Mohammed Hamid, regional head for Heaps.ai in the GCC and Mena.
“Traditional care co-ordination models are labour intensive and often build on manual processes.
“AI models provide a low-cost high effectiveness solution which allows organisations to expand their services and coverage elsewhere.”
While AI is efficient at analysing vast data sets of data, faster and more accurately than humans, it still lacks a humane qualities that are pivotal in healthcare.
Dr Mrudul Ramachandran, a specialist of internal medicine, at Aster Clinic in Arabian Ranches, Dubai, said incoming AI would make doctors stronger, more capable and efficient in terms of treating people, but the role of medical professional was far from obsolete.
“AI can be a smart assistant to a doctor, it cannot replace a human doctor," he said.
“Compassion and empathy are two inevitable qualities a doctor must possess.
"Treating a patient involves being compassionate and empathetic to their emotional and physiological needs, AI as a technology cannot help in this case.
“It is not fool-proof. AI analyses data and interprets it based on the data sets on which the AI models have been validated.
“If the data set is biased or lacks quality - it might generate false results so AI cannot make a final judgement on the diagnosis.
“A doctor has to use his skills to confirm the diagnosis. AI can only support the process.”