Digital Health Explained

AI in Health

27 August 2021

Are machines better than humans? 

Article Intelligence (AI) gives many people a shiver down their spine, perhaps due to Hollywood depictions of super-intelligent machines. 

AI refers to systems and machines that mimic intelligence to perform tasks and improve themselves based on information they collect, process and feedback. Although AI mimics decision-making capabilities usually only linked to human minds, it isn’t a new concept - Alan Turing published papers on machine intelligence and learning in the 1950 - leading from his work with the enigma code-cracking machine that helped to end WWII.

Modern day AI helps us to work with an abundance of data and perform mundane tasks, such as chatbots to respond to customer queries, to recommend new shows to watch based on their viewing habits and not forgetting that AI is central to speech enabled devices and wearables, which are learning about the user with every request and step taken.

Think of a child pointing out apple, apple, apple, orange… and determining each fruit by the recognised characteristics; pitted skin, round shape and so forth, machines can do the same – watching for markers and drawing conclusions based on the data available.

The uses in health are impressive, offering speed and accuracy that traditional diagnostics cannot offer. Research in 2020, found that machine leaning models can now exceed the diagnosis accuracy of human doctors! Important as misdiagnosis can result in serious patient harm and create unnecessary cost and strain on health services. 

Early detection of breast cancer could save countless lives, and ongoing trials using AI to interpreting mammograms indicate that AI could help, by saving processing time and improving accuracy, by using algorithms to read scans and report findings, not only reducing the wait time for appropriate treatment, but reducing procedures like biopsies.

It is not to say that our expert clinicians are below par, far from it – Humans do not have the advantage that machines do - unlimited storage, fast memory recall and lightning-fast processing speed. Imagine if you could remember and relay everything you were ever told or had seen– you would be top of the pub quiz rankings every week!

AI can be trained to help us interpret the wealth of health data that we receive each day, at a speed that we have never benefited from before. The possibilities of how we could employ this technology are infinitely endless.