Skip to content Skip to Live Chat

AI in Healthcare: Revolutionizing Patient Care and Career Prospects

Aug 5, 2020

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are two closely connected technologies that are changing the way everything in our world works. AI has made its way into the realm of healthcare, impacting the way professionals work, patient outcomes, privacy, and much more. Research suggests that AI could save $360 billion in healthcare costs annually. 

Healthcare worker shortages combined with an aging population raise significant concerns about the availability of healthcare in the near future. Medical facilities are already understaffed, leading to burnout and high turnover in the medical field. 

Many experts believe that AI and machine learning could revolutionize the healthcare workforce, using automation and technology augmentation to “reinvent” 70% of healthcare workers’ daily tasks

Overall, it seems that artificial intelligence in the healthcare field is poised to make a huge positive impact, shaping the way hospitals and clinical facilities run, and impacting the future of medicine.  

AI and Healthcare Education

As AI has taken a larger place in the healthcare industry, education in healthcare is changing too. Students studying to earn healthcare degrees also need to be prepared for working with technology. Those studying healthcare management need to have additional understanding and training in healthcare technology and how it will impact their career. Understanding new tech, learning about how to budget for it and prepare for it, and being knowledgeable on how it impacts patient outcomes and wellness are all critical for health managers and administrators.  

Similarly, healthcare leaders need to understand privacy and security when it comes to healthcare technology. Cybersecurity professionals are needed to ensure that patient medical data and information are kept private. And healthcare professionals need to understand the best privacy and security practices to ensure they are using AI solutions properly. 

Overall, many healthcare degrees, from nursing to management, are increasing their focus on healthcare technology. Information management, technology, and data understanding are all critical for healthcare professionals to understand. Specific courses in these areas are important in helping professionals be prepared for the technology systems they are sure to encounter in their hospital or clinical setting. And as technology continues to grow and change, proper education about how to integrate technology into healthcare will continue to be essential. 

The Role of AI in Healthcare Decision-Making

For doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals, prompt and accurate decision-making is essential. Whether it is deciding which treatment will alleviate a patient’s symptoms, determining whether a surgical procedure is worth the risk, or finding the best way to allocate limited resources, decision-making is at the heart of the medical field. AI can assist medical professionals in making complex healthcare decisions. Specifically, AI has been successfully used to improve the following:  

  • Data capture and analysis. AI systems can gather patient data such as genetic information and lab results and use algorithms to identify patterns and determine appropriate treatment options. Burgeoning AI programs that “listen” to doctor-patient conversations can generate medical notes in real time and immediately add relevant information to the patient’s electronic data record. AI has also been incorporated into devices such as continuous glucose monitors to gather real-time health data. This information provides invaluable insight to doctors and empowers patients to take charge of their own health. 
  • Treatment recommendations. AI tools can aid in clinician decision-making by presenting recommendations based on the patient’s unique physiology and medical history, response to previous treatments, the relevant clinical literature, and the established best practices. Doctors can work with AI systems to generate a personalized treatment plan specific to a patient’s circumstances and needs.
  • Risk assessment. AI-powered technology can also use predictive analytics to classify patients into different risk groups based on the likelihood of the patient developing certain medical conditions. This helps doctors make decisions about preventative care and medical tests. For example, if a patient has a family history of colorectal cancer, they may need earlier and more frequent colonoscopies than someone without a family history of colon cancer. Early detection of illnesses like cancer is often the difference between life and death. 

AI in Healthcare Administration

Did you know that the average nurse spends less than half of their time directly caring for patients? As any medical professional can attest, charting, scheduling, and filling out paperwork can be frustrating and tedious. Administrative tasks are time-consuming, costly, and decrease the amount of time clinicians have for direct patient interaction. Fortunately, AI shows enormous potential for optimizing administrative tasks and relieving medical providers of clerical responsibilities. AI can be used to automate appointment scheduling, streamline billing, process big data, improve electronic health records management, and much more. 

For example, technologies such as voice-to-text transcription reduce the amount of time doctors spend writing notes and filling prescriptions. AI chatbots are used to assist with scheduling appointments, sending reminders to patients, and gathering patient information. AI-driven programs can even be used to order medical tests and fill prescriptions.  

Medical errors are a constant concern in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other medical facilities.  AI can reduce errors by processing large quantities of data, detecting patterns, and recognizing when data deviates from the established pattern. Because researchers and medical staff are only able to evaluate and understand a limited amount of data at one time, AI can often detect anomalies that would slip past a human observer. 

AI has also demonstrated great potential in reducing medication mistakes, drug interactions, and allergic reactions. If a doctor prescribes a medication to a patient, AI technology can quickly analyze the patient’s other medications to check for any interactions. AI can also be used to reduce errors caused by poor handwriting. 

Examples of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare

How is artificial intelligence used in healthcare? AI technologies have emerged as invaluable tools for streamlining clinical workflows, analyzing big data, improving patient care, and assisting healthcare providers. The following companies are currently using AI technology to transform the way medical professionals diagnose, treat, and manage patients. 

  • Merative L.P. Formerly known as IBM Watson Health, Merative L.P. uses data analytics, AI, could computing, and other technologies to facilitate medical research and healthcare services. The company boasts some of the most widely used clinical decision support systems on the market. 
  • Google Deepmind. Data collected from the artificial intelligence research laboratory Google Deepmind is being used to analyze eye scans for signs of eye diseases, identify cancerous tissues, and detect acute kidney injury. 
  • Tempus. Tempus built a massive database of clinical and molecular data that has been used to fight cancer and infectious diseases. Recently, the company launched a new smart speaker that allows physicians to ask questions and access patient information by simply speaking to the device. 
  • Butterfly Network. Butterfly’s Auto B-line Counter uses AI to identify and count B-lines in lung ultrasounds, which are known markers of pulmonary disease. The company plans to expand the use of AI technology in portable ultrasound devices. Wireless, portable medical devices like these are crucial for providing medical care in remote areas of the world. 
  • Aidoc. Israeli technology company Aidoc creates AI products that use algorithms to analyze medical imaging data and identify abnormalities. Aidoc hopes to reduce burnout in radiologists and other physicians by automating some of the most time-consuming aspects of their jobs. 
  • Gauss Surgical. The Triton system developed by Gauss Surgical provides real-time information about blood loss during surgery. Triton products have been successfully used to detect postpartum hemorrhage in vaginal and cesarean deliveries, which is the leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide
  • PathAI. PathAI utilizes machine learning technology to help pathologists make more accurate cancer diagnoses. The technology can help reduce errors  and work to create individualized medical treatments. PathAI was developed by companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. Originating from Cambridge, Massachusetts, the overall goal of PathAI is to expand its AI tech to all healthcare realms, not just cancer.  
  • Zebra Medical Vision. Zebra Medical Vision is based in Israel and helps radiologists by analyzing images. This technology reviews imaging scans and searches for clinical findings. The findings are then given to radiologists, who can use the data when making a diagnosis. 

These are just a handful of the many AI companies and technologies that exist and are working to make healthcare more effective and improve patient outcomes.

Risks of AI in Healthcare

While there are many benefits to using AI in healthcare, there are also risks, such as: 

  • Lack of personal involvement. Some patients may resist the idea of AI technology being used to treat them. It can also mean that some doctors or nurses don’t need to spend as much time with patients, removing that human element of healthcare. This can be a problem for patients and medical professionals alike. 
  • Unemployment. Chatbots and AI technologies can make some healthcare jobs unnecessary, leading to higher unemployment. It’s important for healthcare professionals to understand what kinds of positions will always be needed in order to make smart choices about their career. 
  • Privacy and security. This is one of the largest risks of adding AI to healthcare. Patient medical information is highly sensitive, and technology is always vulnerable to threats and attacks. Healthcare organizations must work diligently to ensure they have privacy and security measures installed that will protect their patients.  

If you’re interested in AI and healthcare, it’s important to understand what education you can get that will help you be prepared. A bachelor’s or master’s degree in healthcare from WGU will help you learn about technology in healthcare and be prepared to utilize it in your career. 

Ethical Considerations in AI for Healthcare

AI is poised to play an increasingly essential role in healthcare and has the potential to radically improve patient outcomes. However, there are ethical considerations that must be considered when using AI in a medical setting. AI has been successfully used to analyze test results, identify signs of disease, compile and organize medical records, and streamline administrative processes, but it is not infallible. 

One problem that has already surfaced in recent AI applications is bias. Algorithms powering AI programs “learn” by reviewing and analyzing data. Social inequities that are reflected in the data fueling AI technologies are often exacerbated by AI. If the data used to inform AI tools is biased, the analyses, insights, and recommendations provided by the AI tools will likely be biased unless interventions are implemented. 

Transparency is another area of concern for innovators using AI to improve healthcare. AI-driven healthcare decisions have a profound impact on patients’ lives, so it's crucial to understand how and why AI technologies make inferences and reach conclusions. Unfortunately, the mechanisms driving AI programs are exceptionally sophisticated and hard to understand, leading to a major problem with a lack of algorithmic transparency.

Even more concerning, what happens if something goes wrong? Who is accountable if an AI-based healthcare tool makes a mistake and a patient is harmed or killed? These questions plague AI innovators and healthcare professionals alike. As society relies more and more heavily on AI-assisted technology, we must keep these issues at the forefront of our minds. Ethical guidelines and regulations will need to be put in place to ensure safety, transparency, fairness, and privacy when using AI in healthcare.    

The Future of AI in Healthcare

Despite concerns regarding bias, transparency, and accountability, the future for AI in the healthcare system is promising. Wearable medical devices can transmit real-time biometric data to doctors, allowing them to provide personalized medical guidance to patients and stay informed about their patients’ statuses. Remote patient monitoring powered by AI tools may shorten hospital stays, leading to lower medical costs and greater patient autonomy. 

AI is also increasingly used during clinical trials to review data and identify trends. What would take a human weeks or months to accomplish through traditional methods can take minutes or hours with AI technology.  

Advanced diagnostics propelled by artificial intelligence can help doctors diagnose patients faster and more accurately. As our understanding and use of AI grows, many experts believe that doctors will be able to predict medical conditions and illnesses before the patient even develops the condition. Machine learning and AI can also be used to determine what treatments are best suited for a patient and predict how they will likely respond to certain treatments. By using machine learning, natural language processing, data analytics, and other sophisticated mechanisms, AI technologies can transform healthcare worldwide.  

WGU offers competency-based degree programs in health and nursinginformation technologybusiness, and education designed to fit your busy schedule. Whether you are just graduating from high school or have been in the workforce for decades, WGU can help you achieve your career goals.  

Recommended Articles

Take a look at other articles from WGU. Our articles feature information on a wide variety of subjects, written with the help of subject matter experts and researchers who are well-versed in their industries. This allows us to provide articles with interesting, relevant, and accurate information.