Software like artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) are often viewed to be technology of the future, however, there are ways these types of futuristic advancements are used today. In big corporations, technology like AI or cloud computing systems are used on a regular basis to store information and make inferences from said data. Today technology like this is also making its way into the medical field, and many physicians are either currently using, or looking into ways software can be used to change the way healthcare is provided.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an up-and-coming technology that is widely used in businesses. This technology has the ability to take the information it is presented and learn from it in order to produce an answer or outcome. Software developers will take information, translate that information into a mathematical equation, and input it into the AI system allowing the machine to learn through algorithms. Once it has the information it needs, it is able to make connections by vetting the information against each other. From there, it is capable of learning new information and creating new algorithms to learn and store.

This type of technology is most commonly used by businesses to create insights that drive business decisions. AI can be used to create insights for marketing campaigns or perhaps for financial investments, however, this technology has the opportunity to be used for medical discoveries.

The use of AI in medicine has been tested by many different groups, however, developers from New York’s University’s School of Medicine along with help from Google were able to train AI software to detect cancer. The software, Inception-v3, was trained with data from the Cancer Genome Atlas that were uploaded into the system. Once up and running, the technology was able to detect 6 different cell mutations with a 0.733 to 0.856 accuracy. This isn’t the only software that has been able to detect cancer as well as, if not better than, oncologists. Another AI software, deep convolutional neural networks (CNN), is detecting skin cancer through image processing 95% of the time, which physicians in the control group were only able to detect cancer 87% of the time.

This technology can be groundbreaking for rare cancers as well. Canon Medical Research, an Edinburgh-based firm was awarded a 140,000 pound grant to test the use of AI to help malignant pleural mesothelioma. With mesothelioma being such a rare disease that has a poor prognosis, the team hopes for a better outcome for patients with this brutal cancer. They hope to show that AI can make a positive impact on other types of cancer diagnoses, treatment, and the cost of cancer drugs.

Telemedicine

Telemedicine over the years has been most used to treat patients in remote areas. Today, telemedicine has become more commonly used to treat all types of patients, due to the advancement and widespread use of technology. Telemedicine is the use of technology, such as email, phone call, messaging, photo sharing or video chatting in patient care, and is used to help doctors treat patients without the hassle of an in-person appointment. This concept is very appealing to today’s society considering our fast-paced world. Most people today would rather skip the waiting room and get right to the doctor, which is why remote doctor’s visits are so widely accepted.

The use of technology in the medical field is also more cost-efficient. The United States spends over $2.9 trillion on healthcare each year, which is more than any other developed nation. Not to mention it is estimated that $200 billion of those funds are from unnecessary spending. Telemedicine, if used more often, has the ability to cut costs by eliminating unnecessary ER visits to avoidable hospitalizations.

Another benefit could be to help more patients who have specialized or rare illnesses. According to The New York Times, there is a rise in drug-resistant infections and a shortage of specialists who are capable of treating these diseases. In fact, the Infectious Diseases Society of America has had to create aggressive recruiting strategies to help with the shortage. Telemedicine could serve as a solution to this epidemic. With the shortage of specialists in this field, more patients could receive the treatment they need no matter where they are geographically located.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is more often utilized in a conventional business setting, however, the medical community has taken advantage of this technology for medical records. Keeping patient data together and accurate is extremely important and over the years a record or two can fall through the cracks, only to leave gaps in a patient’s history. HIMSS Analytics survey published that 60% of the responding healthcare organizations are using cloud computing for backup and disaster recovery, and 51% are using the cloud for clinical applications and data.

BCC Research projected that with the rate of growth of the global healthcare cloud computing market will increase to $35 billion by 2022 with an annual growth rate of 11.6%. NetApp, a cloud computing organization stated that there are many benefits to cloud computing, which is by the market is growing at such a rapid pace. Among them are data protection, disaster recovery, automated storage, volume cloning of data, and significantly reducing costs. Not to mention this information can be utilized for clinical research purposes.

While the cloud is extremely beneficial, there are often concerns with HIPAA and data protection. However, according to the Department of Health and Services, Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) are covered under the HIPAA Privacy, Security and Breach Notification Rules and must comply with them. A covered entity can be anything that is part of a patient’s health plan that is transmitted or stored electronically. “When a covered entity engaged the services of the CSP to create, receive, maintain, or transmit ePHI on its behalf, the CSP is a business associate under HIPAA. Further, when a business associate subcontracts with a CSP to create, receive, maintain, or transmit ePHI on its behalf, the CSP subcontractor itself is a business associate.”

So while many patients and healthcare providers have concerns about protecting patient information on cloud technologies, one could argue that it could be even more secure. In comparison to using paper files, or even an on-premise technology, cloud computing is often updated on a regular basis, leaving it one step ahead of any cybersecurity threat.

Technology like telemedicine and cloud data processing has proven to be great improvements in the medical field. With software like this paving the way, there is a chance that up-and-coming technology like AI will have more of a place in healthcare. Many physicians are working with new technology that can be utilized in different ways for medical advancements like the New York University School of Medicine and the Canon Medical Research teams are. With technology already having such a huge role in this space, who knows what other advancements we will see for healthcare in the future.