Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of several technologies that has been gaining more attention and greater use in recent years. If you’re a behavioral health or addiction treatment provider, you may have heard a little about AI, but wondered whether it matters to your practice.
Let’s take a general look at what AI is, and how it is becoming valuable in healthcare.
What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
Generally AI (sometimes called machine intelligence or machine learning) is a computer science term for the form of “intelligence” that machines or computers may demonstrate, rather than the natural intelligence that a person demonstrates. Nowadays, the term AI usually refers to the ability of computers and software to imitate “intelligent” functions that are traditionally human. This includes learning and problem solving.
AI usually involves the use of complex software and algorithms (sets of instructions that solve problems or perform calculations) to mimic human cognition. In the medical and healthcare fields, AI is usually used to analyze complicated data and reach conclusions without a human’s direct input.
How is AI applied in healthcare?
In healthcare, AI technology can use learning algorithms to gain and process information and provide well-defined conclusions. This is primarily useful for analyzing the relationships between treatments (or preventions) and patient outcomes.
AI technology and machine learning in healthcare are still in the early stages, but show promise for many applications. Healthcare providers and technology can use AI for:
Collecting and analyzing patient data to create a more accurate diagnosis
More precisely interpreting imaging or lab results
Providing virtual nursing assistants that remind patients to take medications, or help answer medical questions
Collecting, sharing, and interpreting data in wearable devices
Providing remote services and diagnoses via telemedicine
Using electronic health records (EHRs) more efficiently and helping with administrative workflow
Expanding care to underserved areas and developing nations
Healthcare AI is often combined with other technologies for optimal outcomes, such as surgical robotics, telemedicine software, or EHR software.
AI proponents predict that it will help decrease medical costs in many ways, including more accurate diagnoses, predicting more effective treatment plans, preventing diseases, and encouraging patient knowledge of their conditions.
While there are concerns that AI devices will replace many healthcare workers, advocates argue that, rather than replace healthcare workers, AI will give them more time and opportunities for in-person patient care and interactions. This could, in fact, help reduce provider burnout.
According to Forbes, total investment in healthcare AI could reach $6.6 billion by 2021, and may lead to $150 billion in annual savings by 2026. It appears that AI is not a passing trend, but will become an integral part of modern healthcare.
In future blog posts, we will talk about how AI can be used more specifically.
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