Artificial intelligence (AI) is improving—and fundamentally changing—health care for the better. Many of its applications involve the use of sophisticated AI programmes at major clinics and hospitals.
Although AI is still a relatively new technology, it has already proven itself to be a very powerful tool in many capacities. AI is likely to allow for the development of simple healthcare apps that vastly outperform those currently on the market. These AI-driven apps have the potential to help average consumers and patients better monitor and address their own health needs than ever before.
The following examples represent some of the more noteworthy ways in which AI may soon change the nature of healthcare apps for the better.
Helping Identify Health Problems
The idea of turning to the Internet, an app, or a similar digital resource for health information is not new—plenty of people check their symptoms on websites like WebMD before making appointments with their doctors. However, the value of these resources offer has been fairly limited. WebMD and similar sites consist primarily of articles about various conditions. While they may be helpful for initial research, they can’t engage directly with you to help you more accurately determine the cause of your symptoms.
While AI can’t exactly do this either (only a doctor can give an accurate diagnosis), it doesn’t mean AI can’t be useful as a research tool. There are many instances when minor symptoms and conditions do not require major professional treatment.
Already, AI-powered apps can ask users questions about their symptoms and analyse backend data to provide them with advice regarding what steps they should take next. Sometimes, the app will simply recommend a form of basic self-medication, such as taking aspirin, getting rest, etc. When a patient’s answers and symptoms indicate they may have a more serious condition, the app will tell them to contact a healthcare professional.
The widespread availability of these kinds of apps won’t just help the average person better understand their own health—it will also free up time for doctors to focus on patients with more serious illnesses or symptoms.
Some patients with serious illnesses or disorders require constant monitoring to ensure their health remains optimal. Unfortunately, staying at a hospital or clinic for long periods of time can substantially diminish their quality of life. Even if they are allowed to go home, monitoring their condition remotely is too difficult to ensure positive outcomes.
AI-powered apps will also help in these situations. By tracking vital signs and other health factors, AI can allow physicians to remotely monitor their patients with greater ease and accuracy than ever before. If the app alerts a physician to a change in a patient’s condition, the doctor can then use the same app to contact the patient, letting them know if they should take their medication or come in for an appointment. This will grant many freedoms to patients who would otherwise be forced to stay at a hospital under professional supervision. It will also ensure doctors are less likely to overlook warning signs.
Identifying Skin Problems
Though it is always the best course of action to see a doctor if you believe you may have a serious illness, sometimes, you want a quick answer about a symptom that has suddenly developed. This is particularly common with issues of the skin. If you notice a rash or a change in a mole’s appearance, you’ll want to contact a dermatologist right away. Many forms of skin cancer, allergic reactions, and the like can be treated if caught early.
Luckily, consumers can download smartphone apps that help when a dermatologist isn’t immediately available. Users simply take pictures of their skin conditions (such as moles, freckles, rashes, lumps, and bumps) and upload them to the app. It then compares the images to a database, using AI to determine what the most likely cause is. The app then tells users to seek medical attention or explains what they can do to address the problem on their own.