Over the past five decades, technology has evolved at a breakneck speed. However, it is important to note that technological advancements, both big and small, do not just appear out of thin air. It takes copious amounts of brain power across multiple fields to ensure that the technology used in everyday life is constantly pushing the envelope, and in turn, making these breakthroughs become second nature.
The impact of new technology has opened the floodgates for innovation, allowing once obscure ideas to manifest into reality. One of these ideas that are now coming to fruition is artificial intelligence (AI). Many people are unaware that they are interacting with AI every single day. Whether you are asking your voice-enabled smartphone a question or being recommended a binge-worthy TV show on your favorite streaming service, AI has been implemented to make these things happen without much thought.
The capabilities of AI are seemingly endless, and its uses have just started to be integrated into the healthcare and medical fields. With AI-powered supercomputers leading the charge to aid medical research, hopefully, we will see this technology help cure diseases such as cancer.
What is Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial Intelligence is a term to describe a computer’s ability to showcase simulated intelligence. These computers aren’t your typical desktop, though, and have been deemed “supercomputers” for their significantly greater and faster processing capabilities. These supercomputers are fed large amounts of data, and through a combination of analytics and intuition, they are able to draw conclusions based on things such as speech, language, and vision.
These computer systems are not yet fully autonomous, and still, require humans to feed them information in order to be able to make an educated decision. However, as these computers advance and are able to analyze more data, they are able to learn from previous mistakes, streamlining their decision-making process and improving accuracy. One of the most popular topics revolving around AI is how it can be applied to various business and industrial sectors. Whether it be finance, law or health, AI may serve a purpose across multiple fields.
AI in healthcare and current usages
As of now, AI is being explored for its potential use in healthcare and diagnostic practices. While supercomputers like IBM Watson may not fully “solve cancer”, they can assist doctors in the best options to approach treatments and surgeries. By learning the medical language associated with cancer (types, symptoms, treatments) computers like Watson can decipher differences amongst diseases, allowing for a possibly quicker diagnosis for a patient. By evaluating large amounts of medical literature, these computers can also provide routes for treatment based on a patient’s disease and infer the treatments’ potential effects on an individual based on factors such as medical history, age, and gender.
Currently, Watson has partnered with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and many other hospitals to create an oncology-based system to advance cancer research. While this technology was expected to advance rapidly, it is still in its early stages.
Through these oncological systems, Watson has gathered enough information to specialize in 13 different types of cancer and is continuing to expand its index. One of the most notable cancers that Watson is aiding in is breast cancer. In June of this year, a report by Mayo Clinic physicians found that Watson for Clinical Trial Matching was able to boost enrollment in clinical trials by 80 percent upon implementation. This means that Watson was finding patients who were compatible with experimental trials, and allowing them to explore a new form of treatment that is unavailable to the mass market.
This innovation is truly groundbreaking. Watson’s ability to identify cancer and then match a specialized treatment option and at such a quick rate can streamline diagnostic practices, especially those with complex late-stage cancers, such as mesothelioma. When utilized as a tool in cancer diagnosis and treatment, AI can greatly improve survival rates across a variety of diseases.
Future applications of AI in healthcare
Researchers are just beginning to scratch the surface of the capabilities of AI in healthcare. Hopefully, we will see this technology implemented into other parts of the health field, such as advancements in health records, wearable technologies, immunotherapy, and other important areas that can benefit both doctors and patients. For now, supercomputers will continue to gather and analyze medical data and this should open the floodgates for more innovation to come.