Based on the patient’s medical history matched with a global database of similar cases, a surgeon asking a Siri-like digital assistant in the operations theater about the options available in a risky operation, may not be a science fiction scenario anymore.
Artificial Intelligence or A.I. can provide such solutions and many others to the healthcare sector.
According to Steve Leonard, chief executive of SGInnovate, the government entity that supports entrepreneurs leading Singapore’s innovation efforts, A.I. is poised to become a game changer for the health care sector. But it can be a tricky business to try and convince doctors, clinicians, nurses, patients and other stakeholders to place their trust in self-thinking machines.
“That’s a double-edged sword because health care is a very tricky area,” Leonard said.at the sideline of the Innovfest Unbound conference in Singapore. “Doctors and clinicians are not so excited sometimes about new models or new processes – and I don’t mean that disrespectfully. It’s just that’s a reality.” Regulation would also be a key factor to consider, he added.
By committing more than $100 million over the next five years, Singapore recently ramped up investments into A.I. Including health care, to address major challenges affecting Singapore society, the city-state plans to use A.I.
“A.I. could play a big role in supporting prevention, diagnosis, treatment plans, medication management, precision medicine and drug creation,” said Bruce Liang, chief information officer of Singapore’s Ministry of Health, in a press statement.
He added, “Health care manpower, augmented with A.I. tools, could better address increased health care demands in the future.”
Ways to integrate A.I. in this critical sector are already being worked on by many companies — big and small. an A.I. powered chatbot that can connect with patients, field medical questions and suggest diagnoses to doctors, was introduced by Chinese search engine giant Baidu last year.
A.I. could theoretically reduce human errors in diagnosis or dispensation of medicines, observe previously-missed information in electronic medical records and reduce waiting time at clinics, and in theory, this sounds beneficial — since machines can process information faster.
However, some way still remains to go for selling that idea to the masses. Advanced computer technology or robots with A.I. that can answer health questions, perform tests and make a diagnosis could be used, agreed 55 percent of the respondents in a research undertaken by professional services firm PwC across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. But 38 percent said they were not willing.
The rollout of A.I. on a mass scale still has some way to go even though startups, companies and research institutes may be developing A.I. powered products and services and hence some industry watchers also said that A.I. is still at an experimental stage.
Transport is one sector that will inevitably be transformed by A.I. as autonomous cars are expected to be the next big thing, Leonard said.
“Transportation will increasingly not involve people,” he said. “Over time … we’ll look back and say what was this idea of people sitting behind a wheel and driving a two-ton piece of metal at 120 km an hour? I think that’s inevitable.”
In the financial services industry, there is already widespread use of A.I. Companies are increasingly looking into using machines to detect fraud and prevent crime in the industry, from robot wealth advisers to chatbots.
Using sensors and the Internet of Things for example, machines could theoretically usher in more efficient use of energy, and hence energy consumption is another area that could benefit.
“If we connect (sensors) to every part of every building, every place around the island, could we reduce energy by 1 or 2 percent? Doesn’t sound like a big number, but when you think about 1 or 2 percent across an entire country, it turns out to be many, many billions of dollars,” Leonard said.
(Adapted from CNBC)