Feeling out of it, but don’t want the hassle of going to your doctor? The first headache is getting an appointment, then there’s the issue of showing up. Warnings buzz around the back of your head, like an annoying mosquito, ‘Don’t come in contact with others; keep your distance at all times.’
The question begs, when visiting your local clinic of all places, what are the chances of catching something worse?
Now a common dilemma— health authorities have seen a 60% decline in visits to the family doctors and health clinics in 2020, with a slow bounce-back since the peak of the pandemic.
With the aid of Artificial Intelligence, finding ways for patients to connect with health professionals while minimizing unnecessary risks of contact, is now in the spotlight of a collaborative focus between healthcare workers and the tech industry.
If you’re unfamiliar with Artificial intelligence (AI), it is the branch of computer science concerned with building smart machines capable of doing tasks that humans typically perform.
AI connects you to the right doctor faster with less risk
Google Cloud and Amwell have just announced a multi-year, strategic partnership to develop telehealth solutions on a global scale. Their aim is to use AI to automate waiting room management and checkout.
As health carers face patients that speak different languages, Google will provide automated language translation services, making it easier for doctors and patients to communicate. AI will also replace routine chores so that doctors can focus on the specialist tasks needing human intuition and decision-making for personalized healthcare.
Doctors seeing patients through video consultation is becoming a common occurrence. Whether you want to see a specialist such as a dermatologist or family doctor, video appointments minimize the risk of contact. Consulting with medical professionals has become much more accessible, without the need to sit in waiting rooms at the clinic, avoiding the risk of infection from other patients.
In the UK, AccuRx built a video chat tool to help family doctors stay in touch with patients during the pandemic. Telemedicine is here to stay. The COVID-era has accelerated the integration of video communication with health professionals into mainstream medicine, which has now become the new norm.
Despite these developments, not everyone has the privilege of quality private health insurance, and there is still the need to wait for a telehealth meeting with your doctor.
For those made recently unemployed, whose health insurance has lapsed or is about too, you may be deliberating about seeing a doctor. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the abundance of info online and the endless possible disorders, affecting you.
Your imagination can make many symptoms appear to be COVID-related, requiring you to read through a ton of information. It’s easy to be paranoid about being infected. The media too often magnifies the possibility that you’re the victim of some mysterious disease, despite not stepping out of your apartment for the last 100 days.
AI chatbots to the rescue
Buoy, a startup led by a young talented group of AI specialists and doctors, has developed a chatbot that guides patients to a diagnosis and medical attention in quick-time.
Used by Harvard medical school, Buoy diagnoses patients with a hand-held approach. The app leads you through a series of questions, asking for symptoms, then reaches a diagnosis, recommends treatment, and whether you need to see a doctor.
The app even asks what health insurance you have and location, a question you can skip if you’re unsure. Buoy also suggests where to go for assistance, and not in the proverbial sense. The app is available on your mobile or via the Buoy website.
But how much can you trust a robotic chatbot? A better question is, how honest and accurate are you when answering questions about your health? There’s also the concern, your answers and data are being shared with third parties, making you another big-data demographic target.
The app relies on your input, as a doctor hasn’t yet checked your symptoms, some you may have missed or thought are unrelated.
Babylon Health is another example of an AI chatbot that personalizes medical screening and even makes a video or a face-to-face appointment with a healthcare professional.
Despite misgivings, chatbots are the latest in a series of AI initiatives helping doctors make diagnosis and treatment more efficient, accurate, and cost-effective.
In fact, chatbots are becoming the frontline filter for directing patients to the right doctor and treatment, even a prerequisite to a video-appointment with a health professional.
AI diagnosis is quicker and more accurate
Reminiscent of an episode in Black Mirror, you chatted with a bot and tele-met with your doctor, resulting in you needing a blood check. You come into the clinic for the test, and the results are through in a snap.
AI blood diagnosis is now routinely analyzing deadly bacteria and blood diseases faster than you can decide on which pizza you’re going to order.
It’s not only about speed. The results are far more accurate. Microscopes at Beth Israel, Harvard U’s teaching hospital, integrate AI to scan for harmful bacteria in blood samples much faster than manual scanning carried out by a human. Scientists have examined thousands of blood samples using AI deep-learning, predicting disease with very high accuracy.
AI diagnosis was ramped up during the COVID19 pandemic. Rapid testing became healthcare’s number one priority. Beyond blood diagnosis, AI is detecting patients for COVID-19 through RT-PCR tests of genes in human cells, taken from test samples.
Whereas radiologists classified patients as being negative for COVID19, studies have shown that AI systems improve detection correctly, identifying symptoms with over 60% higher accuracy.
Zebra Medical Vision, based in Israel, specializes in AI assistive technology for radiologists. Whether it’s diagnosing early stages of lung cancer or osteoporosis, computers using AI, analyze MRIs CTs, and X-rays scans.
AI machine learning records the experience and knowledge of thousands of radiologists. Zebra’s system creates algorithms that identify markers of diseases and disorders in new patient scans, helping radiologists reach a diagnosis with faster and higher output. As technology advances, a daunting question for radiologists is, will they become a thing of the past, with AI-virtual-replacements?
Information can save your life
If there’s a remote chance, you fall ill and rushed to the hospital, the first thing is to register and be directed to the right department. How often have you been stuck at Reception while you brief administrators on your personal details and symptoms?
Qventus AI software helps prioritize patience through emergency rooms while maintaining patient safety through the risk of infection within a medical environment. The software prioritizes patients according to illness and injury. It even tracks current waiting times and helps ambulance services calculate the fastest route to the most appropriate medical facility.
When you finally meet the doctor, you’re often asked a barrage of questions about your health, circumstance, and symptoms. If your medical history is not in the system, the diagnosis can take much longer until tests are completed, and a diagnosis is made.
What if your entire medical history was already in the system?
CloudMedX uses AI deep learning to gather and analyze data and direct patients through the healthcare system. The software helps hospitals and clinics manage patient medical data, storing their clinical history, and even patients’ payment information. The insights provided help doctors and patients make better decisions based on the health context, backdrop, and insurance cover.
Tempus is another company that stores the most extensive collection of clinical and molecular data. Their operating system makes data accessible to doctors in real-time, available for personalized care, with the best options based on the context of a patient’s medical history and current circumstance. Real-time data retrieval saves thousands of hours looking up medical data and records, offering suggested procedures, without which, may not have been considered.
How much will AI healthcare integration cost you?
In light of these AI developments, you may want to ease up on the paranoia about giving your personal information away. Nevertheless, a worrying issue when applying for health insurance is whether pre-existing conditions are covered. If your medical history exposes a previous condition, outside the terms of your policy, treatment can be costly.
It opens the debate about the need for Medicare and nationalized health insurance, such as the UK’s NHS, or free healthcare, available in Europe. But there are downsides to free healthcare. Nationalized health insurance is notorious for long waiting lists, and treatments that are not covered in the budget, only available with private insurance.
How far are you willing to let AI and personal data collection, take control of your life?
The benefits of AI are blatantly obvious. Reaching an informed diagnosis with timely treatment can save your life.
Yet, in light of the pandemic with high-unemployment and risk of infection, affordable quality healthcare has become a big concern for millions. AI technology is advancing patient care in mind-boggling ways you wouldn’t imagine.
The big question remains, who will benefit, and who will fall by the wayside, as AI and data collection increases its grip on your life. At a time when you are most vulnerable, are you Ok with a machine making decisions about your healthcare?