Tech giants such as Google, Apple, IBM, Facebook & Amazon over the past decade have been busy in the field of AI. Between 2011 & 2015 Google alone had acquired 8 robotics and 1 machine learning companies. Between 2014 and 2015 an estimate of over $700 million in venture capital funds were injected into AI companies. These include companies from 13 different countries and a diverse landscape of 10 industries such as e-commerce, business intelligence & healthcare. As of 2018, Healthcare companies spent around $6 BN on AI-related engineering. Between then and 2017, the figure doubled to reach $12 billion.
These industries are also are facing intervention through successful application of AI, thus inducing a creative disruption. This allows open opportunities for new players to come in and compete with the established players especially in high impact industries like healthcare.
Over the past few years, AI has proven that it is capable of delivering massive social benefits in healthcare by using the arsenal of data that the industry generates. Data-driven insights are one of the most fundamental aspects of a healthcare system.
Various technology companies see a huge potential of AI in this area. IBM’s Watson Health division has been one of the early movers in AI-related innovations in the healthcare space. Its non- government repository of healthcare data (largest in the world in this category) is consists of with 600 petabytes of information covering 300 million patients. With the help of Watson, IBM has successfully added analytics and cognitive layer to read, decipher and interpret all the data and images in its healthcare database.
Recent developments have seen AI assist Oncologists in reducing the diagnosis and testing of cancer from six days to just a few hours. In some cases where direct interaction with patients is not required, in AI is capable of driving a dramatic increase in productivity and eventually achieving full automation. In Japan, where one-third of the population will be over 65 by 2025, care of elders is another field where AI and robotics will play a role. While robots which can imitate all the functionalities of a human caretaker are far into the future, scientists have developed technologies like Hybrid Assisted Limb that are capable of helping caretakers.
Some of the immediate benefits of AI in Healthcare include:
- Software-driven approach for drug discovery has increased accuracy, decreased cost and made R&D timelines shorter. This reduces the price that patients have to pay for medicines.
- AI-powered mobile applications like Healthify and DocsApp are not only allowing users easy adaptation of a healthy lifestyle, but also access to medical advice on the go at a minimal cost.
- Several apps with AI chatbots help customers select a healthcare plan.
- The increase of wearables and other IoT devices integrated with AI like Fitbit are also assisting in detecting diseases such as cardiac disease, cancer and tuberculosis at an early stage.
A study by ‘Frost & Sullivan’ suggests that AI has the potential to cut treatment costs in healthcare by half and increase outcomes by 30-40%. Following are the processes that can allow this to happen:
- Integrating information from data such as medical records & operation metrics
- Reducing hospital visits for both doctors
- Reducing time in administrative duties
The Future of AI in Healthcare
Recent history is testimonial to the fact that the number of successful case studies for AI in Healthcare shall continue to grow. A study by International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts the following growths for 2020:
- IoT-enabled asset tracking and inventory management systems in hospitals will double. This will improve patient safety, staff satisfaction, and operational efficiency.
- 25% of hospitals with over 200 beds will have deployed robotics to handle tedious tasks, reduce labour, and prevent errors.
- Healthcare organisations will start using blockchain for things like operations management and patient identity.
- Organisations will have achieved 15–20% productivity gains through the adoption of cognitive/AI technology
Healthcare industry is witnessing a tremendous amount of investments in AI and AI-related technologies. Earlier we mentioned that in 2017 its investment in AI had reached $12 billion. Its IoT spend is said to climb up to $21 Bn by 2022 growing at 23% annually. Healthcare firms were expected to spend over $30 Bn on mobility solutions by the end of 2019.
A California Biomedical Research Association research suggests that it takes about 12 years for a drug since the start of its research to reach the patient. Only 0.1% of the drugs that begin pre-clinical testing reach the stage of human testing “and just one of these five is ever approved for human usage.”
It costs a company an average of $359 million to develop a new drug that reaches the patient.
AI has recently started contributing to drug research and discovery. It is expected that the technology can help with this if its advances are streamlined. It has the capability to substantially cut down development costs and reduce the time that a drug takes to reach the patient.