How artificial intelligence will transform the health care ecosystem

From timely prevention to faster and more accurate diagnosis by combining data and monitoring in real time. AI is already changing the way we cure ourselves, and this is an example of what awaits us in the near future.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not a new concept, but it is only in recent years that our technology has reached the point with applied use cases. We are far from the general artificial intelligence like the robots and computers we see in science fiction movies, but nowadays AI can surpass human beings in certain tasks and in particular areas of medicine.

A research paper found that key clinical applications of AI can potentially create $150 billion in annual savings for the U.S. health economy by 2026. Another report found that the IA health market will be worth $34 billion by 2025.

AI is capable of performing repetitive tasks, which do not lack in the health sector. In the United States, doctors spend more time compiling electronic health records (EHR) than interacting with patients. If AI could take most of that activity, it would free up time that could be devoted to patients. In fact, it would have the same impact as hiring hundreds of new doctors. Artificial intelligence has multiple impacts across the entire health care sector, but can generally be classified as a support system in one or more of the following cases:

  • Keeping people healthy – New innovative tools like the smart belt, which warns people on their diet and lifestyle and are promoting a new era of preventive healthcare. The goal is to keep people healthy and prevent them from having to seek treatment for preventable diseases in the very first place.

  • Early detection – When a problem occurs, AI can help to detect it earlier. For example, Microsoft is developing computers that work at the molecular level to fight cancer cells as soon as they are detected. AI is also used to analyze the behavior of online search engines to detect mental health problems.

  • Diagnosis – AI can help physicians diagnose patients more quickly and get an understanding based on 80% of health data, which is invisible to current systems because it is unstructured. For example, in a recent article published in Nature Medicine, scientists said they have built a system that can automatically diagnose the most common childhood illnesses, from flu to meningitis, after processing patient symptoms, history, lab results and other clinical data.

  • Decision making – Clinical decision support systems and other AI-based tools can help doctors and patients prioritize tasks. Examples include Quanum from Quest Diagnostics and VitreosHealth.

  • Treatment – AI-based tools are already in use at all levels. Google DeepMind is reducing the time it takes to plan radiation treatment, while IBM Watson is making treatment recommendations based on patient records around the world, in China, Thailand and India too.

  • Care for the elderly – We are living longer than ever before, and our aging society requires more and more care. Virtual assistants powered by artificial intelligence and even robots have been promoted as the future, and in fact robots are already being used to care for the elderly in Japan.

  • Research – AI can help discover new drugs and treatments, but it can also be used to research diseases themselves, allowing us to develop a vaccine or eliminate them. For example, the Canadian start-up company Meta uses AI to quickly analyze scientific documents and provide an easy understanding of them.

  • Training – AI-based simulations can help surgeons and other healthcare professionals improve their skills without putting real patients at risk. AI/IV models are generally more realistic and reliable, and one of the advantages of using AI/IV for training is that it can adapt training to each different individual.

Will doctors become obsolete? The answer is no, or at least not all of them. Historically, technology has created jobs instead of destroying them, and this was true until the Industrial Revolution. AI will have eliminated 1.8 million jobs by 2020. At the same time, it will create 2.3 million new jobs, an overall increase of 500,000 units. Other predictions are equally optimistic. Part of this is due to the way artificial intelligence and doctors are likely to interact. AI-based clinical decision support tools could provide physicians with evidence- based advice, but it would be up to physicians and their patients to take this data and decide together how to proceed. But beyond that, there is something in health care that requires a human touch. Imagine that you have just been diagnosed with cancer. Would you prefer to be informed by an emotionless robot that is nothing more than an algorithm, or would you prefer to be informed by a compassionate doctor?

What’s next? Artificial intelligence goes hand in hand with machine learning, natural language processing and other technologies, which can be combined to process the huge amounts of data we create on a daily basis. In healthcare, being able to process this data and draw new conclusions is not just a matter of making money – it is a matter of life and death. It won’t be long before artificial intelligence is used as standard practice for all clinical procedures.


Humanitas Research Hospital – Via Manzoni 56, Rozzano (Milano), Italia – P. IVA 10125410158 Autorizzazioni: Decreto Presidente Regione Lombardia n°1906 del 18.04.1996 Direttore Sanitario: dott. Michele Lagioia.