Editor’s Note: Stacey Churchwell is vice president and general manager of cardiovascular diagnostics and services at Medtronic. Views are the author’s own.
Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is a buzzword you can’t go a day without hearing. With this technology evolving and advancing at a rapid pace, it’s no wonder there are so many misconceptions surrounding the term and its use, making many hesitant to embrace AI and its capabilities.
The most common fear is AI will replace the human element. But that’s not what I’m seeing, at least not in the healthcare realm.
While AI is already being integrated into clinics, hospitals and healthcare systems, physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals remain a critical and irreplaceable part of the healthcare ecosystem. Using AI to complement clinician expertise provides a solution to the growing challenges healthcare professionals are facing – from burnout and fatigue to a deluge of data.
Ultimately, the clinician will be the one determining the best treatment pathway for the patient, but AI can help provide more real-time precision and efficiency.
More than a buzzword
More than three years after the COVID-19 pandemic began, the U.S. healthcare system is still recovering. As many as half of all physicians, nurses and clinical and non-clinical healthcare staff report unprecedented levels of burnout because of being overworked, overwhelmed and understaffed for the past three years.
Our country is also bracing for the Silver Tsunami, where adults over 65 will outnumber children for the first time in history. As the population ages, the healthcare system will be faced with an influx of patients with chronic conditions, putting a strain on a system that is already short-staffed in many professions and specialties. In fact, it is estimated that by 2030 nearly 25% of boomers will live with diabetes, 33% will be obese, and 60% will seek out treatment options for their multiple chronic disorders.
Used as a complementary tool, AI could help address burnout by streamlining the process of diagnosing, treating and monitoring patients, while helping reduce the impact of data deluge on clinicians.
Personalize medicine with precision
Precision medicine, an innovative approach to how we tailor disease treatment and prevention, is the foundation and model for the future of patient care. By using the latest testing and diagnostic technology, we can achieve earlier diagnoses, avoid unnecessary treatments and shift our resources to proactive disease prevention rather than relying on reactive treatment.
AI is an important tool for precision medicine that could be better utilized. Now is the time to step back and assess where AI can be integrated into practices to better deliver more personalized care for patients.
In the cardiovascular medtech space, AI brings greater efficiency to the table while also improving a higher precision of care delivered to patients.
For example, in the business I lead, we are using the cloud to bring AI solutions to the world of insertable cardiac monitors (ICMs), which are placed inside patients to continuously look for abnormal heart rhythms. AI can improve the accuracy of information physicians receive by minimizing false alerts. This diagnostic accuracy leads to clinic efficiency by reducing clinical review time per patient.
Challenges to integrating AI
The future of AI in healthcare has the potential to be a game-changer for the way work is done and the way patients are treated, but we must be vigilant about the barriers and obstacles that remain. Building robust, reliable AI for healthcare takes time, and not every AI platform is created equal. A tremendous amount of data is needed to build and train AI to reach a level of specificity that brings a meaningful impact to clinicians. Because of the amount of data needed to train AI, diagnosing rare or more unique health conditions can be a challenge. But over time, I believe we will get there.