There was lively debate with IBM at this year’s ThinkDigital about the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in healthcare communication. While healthcare has been slow to adopt information technology, patients have not. Search on healthcare is now the third largest web activity across all generations. Patients are already able to read, watch, and scroll through the entire world’s heritage of medical libraries. Ever more sophisticated symptom checkers are distilling these libraries to offer diagnosis on every condition, and various virtual networks are enabling peer-to-peer transfer of medical knowledge among patients and practitioners.
Yet something far more transformational is in the making: machines like IBM’s Watson are beginning to use AI to cope with the new scale of data in a way that is not possible for the human brain. In 2011, Watson beat human champions in the game of Jeopardy. Soon, IBM is hoping that Watson will be able to examine a patient’s data, search the medical literature, and make a recommendation for treatment in specific specialties. As technology increasingly matures, companies are being formed with the aim of putting a personal avatar doctor in everyone’s pocket.
Consider that the amount of available medical information is doubling every five years and that much of this data is unstructured. Physicians simply don’t have time to read every journal that can help them keep up-to-date with the latest advances in medicine.
Given the growing complexity of medical decision making, machines like Watson may have the potential to transform healthcare research, as well as how medical students learn and communicate.
– June Dawson, Managing Director, Digitas Health LifeBrands London