“The future is already here. It is just not evenly distributed.”
William Gibson, futurist
As we come to the close of 2021, it is a good time to project ahead for artificial intelligence in medicine and think about the future of its role in transforming healthcare.
The COVID-19 pandemic has really shaken healthcare as it was, and perhaps this is a grand opportunity for us to reshape the future of healthcare with artificial intelligence. While impressive gains were made with artificial intelligence in vaccine design and drug repurposing.
These are ten potential areas for artificial intelligence to make substantive impact in this coming decade:
- Extended reality converging with artificial intelligence
There is a surge in use of extended reality in healthcare but this is not yet coupled with artificial intelligence to render a “visual” experience into an “learning” experience with ambient intelligence for patients and caretakers.
- Artificial intelligence and real world data with evidence generation
Artificial intelligence can help organize and collate real world data from a myriad of sources to create evidence generation and render randomized controlled trials nearly obsolete.
- Wearable technology with embedded artificial intelligence Hospitals will evolve into health systems so that the health of individuals will be much more monitored when they are away from the health system. Wearable devices will have primitive artificial intelligence capabilities.
- An artificial intelligence-enabled real-time continuous learning system As health systems are hesitant to share data directly, federated and swarm learning that obviate the need to share data and only share models and parameters will become more routine for collaborations.
- Robotic process automation to reduce administrative burden Much of the high-cost administrative work can be executed by robotic process automation and the cost savings can be put back into the health system for other artificial intelligence-related projects.
- Cognitive analytics enabled with artificial intelligence Most health systems are still performing analytics in the descriptive category with outdated software and the future hospital analytics will be performed with cognitive intelligence with deep reinforcement learning.
- Laboratory testing and imaging workflow and interpretation fully automated The testing processes in the health system will be automated from beginning to end with results prioritized for intervention and will require human oversight only when necessary.
- Individual precision health with screening and virtual twins The health system will be following individual health with a screening program (a health virtual twin) so that healthcare is entirely proactive to diagnose diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
- Regional population health with predictive modeling The aforementioned individual health virtual twins can be coupled to the entire cohort of the population to better predict healthcare interventions and outcomes in real-time for the region.
- Natural language processing tools in healthcare With the advent of transformer-type NLP tools, the portfolio of chatbots/virtual assistants can be more sophisticated and reduce the burden of common medical situations that can be safely redirected.
An essential aspect of the future of applications of artificial intelligence in clinical medicine and healthcare is education of the tenets of artificial intelligence, as well as orientation to these artificial intelligence-enabled services and tools. The population can be empowered with artificial intelligence-enabled tools in the near future and this can reduce cost while improving outcomes for healthcare.