Interacting with AI, or artificial intelligence, has already become a way of life for most people, from email applications that automatically route spam to your junk box, to the recommendations that Netflix makes based on your viewing history, to dealing with personal assistants, like Siri or Alexa.

AI technology is now becoming more prominent in the health industry, as well.

New apps have launched in the last couple years that bring free, personalized health care to individuals who may not have easy access to a doctor or just wish to get authenticated medical advice before paying to see a doctor. Apps, like Ada, Babylon and Your.MD, obtain medical information from users by leading them through a clinical-grade triage.

The apps ask users questions using simple, understandable language to solicit information about their current symptoms and medical history. Using machine learning algorithms, the apps are able to analyze the user’s individual responses against scores of medical data and provide a diagnosis. For a fee, users can be connected with a human doctor for additional consultation. The apps store users’ medical histories in a secure cloud location and users can access their records any time.

These apps have been developed with doctors to ensure accuracy and in fact, many doctors are using these apps in their own practice to validate their patient assessments. Because of the time and learning invested in making these apps as reliable (or better) than a real human experience, they have become trusted tools by many medical practitioners.

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has approved the information Your.MD provides. Ada employs both unsupervised and human-supervised learning to train the app, and Babylon ensures its doctors agree with the app at least 99 per cent of the time. “But we’re finding when the doctors and machine disagree, the doctors are wrong as often as the machine,” says Ali Parsa, founder of Babylon.

IBM has introduced the AI-powered Watson for Oncology platform, to be used in hospitals to help treat cancer patients. Watson analyzes clinical trial data and medical journal entries to find patterns, generating a list of effective therapies and treatment options. Experts at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine reviewed 1000 cancer cases assessed by Watson and their oncologists agreed with 99% of Watson’s recommendations.

AI is also being used to enhance the effectiveness of health and wellness apps, such as those used for weight loss or to achieve fitness goals. Companies like Under Armour and Noom use AI to create a personalized coaching experience for users.

Under Armour has partnered with IBM’s Watson to leverage its cognitive computing technology to design personalized plans for users, offering advice on sleep, fitness, activity and nutrition. “As envisioned, a future version of the UA Record app powered by IBM Watson could be the first system to assess and combine a variety of factors that affect health and fitness programs,” such as personal, physiological and behavioral data, nutrition and a user’s location and environment, the company announced.

Noom is a weight-loss and lifestyle app that uses AI to analyze a user’s exercise and food logs and based on this information, it suggests personalized diets and fitness regimens to maximize weight loss. It also suggests articles to educate users on health topics that interest them. Noom’s president, Artem Petakov says, “You analyze what contributed to the bad behavior becoming a habit so you can learn its cause and then you can take the cause to replace it with a better behavior…. This is a process that can be learned just like math or a foreign language can be learned.”

Medical apps are also being used to assist patients with their prescriptions, reminding them when to take their medication and the proper dosage. Apps now assist in diagnostic image analysis and disease tracking, such as helping diabetics to monitor their diet and glucose levels.

Experts agree that AI is the way of the future in healthcare. According to global research and consulting organization Frost & Sullivan, market revenue for artificial intelligence systems in healthcare will increase from $633.8 million in 2014 to an estimated $6.6 billion in 2021.


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