How AI could help
Here’s where I believe artificial intelligence (AI) could help. Over the next decade, smart systems will be able to aggregate information from multiple sources that currently remain trapped in silos. For each individual patient, they will pull together data from the systems that are used in his or her GP surgery, hospital or specialist center, like different Electronic Medical Records or diagnostic and monitoring solutions. This in turn should enable hospitals and care systems to interconnect solutions to create a continuum of care, without data falling through the cracks as a patient moves between locations.
But what kinds of connections are needed the most?
When I ask this question to the people I meet in IT, business and informatics and clinical roles at US healthcare organizations they tell me: support clinical decision making.
Right now, AI is already very good at supporting point-in-time decision-making; for example, it can help radiologists by identifying and quantifying cancerous lesions from medical imaging. But in the near future, some of the biggest advances in AI will be in supporting clinical decision making based on predictive analytics.
Imagine you’re a nurse sitting in an intensive care unit (ICU) one night. Although you’re alone in the unit, you’re not alone. A support team remotely keeps watch over your patients using analytics to continuously assess the potential need for intervention. The bedside monitoring devices are part of a smart system that uses AI to analyze each patient’s vital signs in the context of their medical history to help predict the risk of them having a heart attack or developing sepsis hours before it happens. And AI could help to do the opposite too: if it predicts that a patient will stabilize, she can be discharged quicker from the ICU to a step-down unit.
Another cause of burnout for nurses in the ICU is alarm fatigue. Each day, staff can be exposed to as many as 350 alarms per patient. In the future, we will see AI help to create a totally silent ICU. In this calmer environment, nurses and doctors will use tools that adapt to their individual ways of working; like advanced visualization to get the insights they need from complex information, and voice-bots to enter observations and commands without typing, while tedious reporting will be largely automated, freeing up time to spend with her patients.