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AI in healthcare – the global opportunity

AI in healthcare – the global opportunity
(Image credit: Pixabay)

A lot is spoken of the tangible benefits that data-driven insights can deliver, and nowhere is this more evident than in healthcare.

Just last month, scientists announced they had developed a new antibiotic, all thanks to data analysis driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI). An algorithm was used to analyse more than one hundred million chemical compounds in just a matter of days. The newly discovered antibiotic can destroy over 30 types of bacteria, and has been recognized in the medical community as a major step forwards in the fight against antibiotic drug resistance.

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James Petter, VP International, Pure Storage.

While it’s not impossible for this discovery to have happened without AI, it certainly accelerated the process. This is a fantastic example of how technology can aid and accelerate innovation within healthcare. Even better, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways that AI and data analytics can revolutionize healthcare across the globe. 

We’ve already seen evidence of these technologies starting to aid the development of personalized medicines, help cut down waiting times, and reduce clinical variation. These pockets of innovation are a case in point that AI can be a real force for good in healthcare.

Tracking virus outbreak

With the coronavirus becoming a large global issue, AI researchers are applying machine-learning techniques to social media, web, and other data for subtle signs that the disease may be spreading elsewhere. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen technology used to help fight the spread of a virus – big data analytics was heavily relied on during the Ebola virus outbreak of 2014.

Leveraging AI to combat cancer

Pathology is the cornerstone of most cancer diagnoses. Yet most pathology diagnoses rely on manual, subjective processes developed more than a century ago. Paige is an organisation that has been able to revolutionize clinical diagnosis and treatment in this area through the use of AI. Complex data can be examined and analysed in a far more accurate and rigorous manner, bringing us closer to finding cures for cancer.

Adaptive staffing

It’s no secret that healthcare institutions are constantly underfunded, under-staffed and under scrutiny. However, in recent years we’re seeing healthcare trusts all over the globe turn to technology to mitigate the impact this has on patient outcomes. For example, many NHS Trusts are using historical data to predict when they will need to scale up staff to handle an influx of patients for the upcoming flu season, or ramp up other support staff to ensure a smooth patient experience in A&E.

Reducing clinical variation

Clinical variation is one of the biggest issues facing the healthcare industry – resulting in wasted resources, and bad patient outcomes. Any hope of eradicating clinical variation, or even reducing it requires the analysis of a tremendous amount of data. However, the technology now exists to make this possible, promising greater efficiencies and leading to improved patient outcomes across the world. 

These examples of innovation would not be possible without data, and the foundation to be able to turn this data into actionable insight. While the benefits of data driven by AI is undeniable, it is not without its challenges. Huge amounts of data need to be processed and analysed at speed, in order to make the split-second decisions that technology is capable of. For this to happen, these projects need a very solid IT infrastructure and significant compute power to work effectively.

An evolving technology

Traditional data centers for healthcare organisations have done reasonably well in terms of enabling healthcare practitioners to deliver patient care. But they were never built with the intention of running the demanding data applications now commonplace - not least for the projects that lie ahead. An approach is required with a particular focus on cloud storage, designed to deliver massively-parallel access to data at a very high bandwidth as is normal with cloud services.

As this technology becomes increasingly important, it will be vital that data analysis and management skills will become commonplace in all aspects of medical training. As healthcare organisations becomes increasingly data driven, it is vital that staff – whether they are doctors or administrators, are equipped to deal with relevant AI technologies. 

Education, support and collaboration will be key to truly feel the benefits of this technology. Data really does have the power to not only tackle some of the biggest issues facing healthcare organisations, but to create real change – leading to greater efficiencies, medical breakthroughs and ultimately improved patient outcomes.

These game changing innovations shouldn’t be held back because of legacy systems. Having an automated view of data management frees up time and resource, so healthcare organisations can focus on making a real difference. Global healthcare organisations deserve a modern data experience that removes complexities and antiquated systems, replacing them with fast, flexible and agile solutions.

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