Not one body is the same. Or so is our perception of health. Health is a personal matter and we want doctors and nurses to treat us as unique individuals. But more and more of the human body can be described using data.Healthcare is increasingly becomeing a discipline of collecting the right data, understanding that data, and transforming it into clinical actions.
“Machine learning and AI are already demonstrating its potential to drive efficiencies and improve the quality of care and will continue to be significant in the next 20 years."
- Charles Koontz, President and CEO of GE Healthcare
Healthcare is one of the areas with the most data about each of us. Just think about it; we can measure the blood pressure and glucose levels, we can measure the pulse and monitor our wellness data on smartwatches, X-Ray machines and MR scanners produce medical images, and EKG diagrams hold data about our heart and circulation. Even the smallest building blocks, our DNA, is mapped and discussed.
In Denmark, our healthcare data dates many years back and spans a multitude of clinical disciplines. All the disciplines are connected digitally through healthcare platforms using the unique patient id, the Danish CPR-number.
AI in healthcare represents a collection of multiple technologies enabling machines to sense, comprehend, act and learn, so they can perform administrative and clinical healthcare functions. With a large amount of data available, a key conditions for developing applied AI, numerous healthcare solutions are being developed across a large range of healthcare disciplines. And not just developed - many are already in use.
The graph only shows money flowing into startup or early stage companies within AI in Healthcare. So to fully understand the ambition behind AI in Healthcare, the internal projects and spending in companies like IBM, Google and Apple, should be added. And they are investing big time.
One example is Google, and their Google Medical Brain unit. Google Medical Brain is part of Google’s AI unit, Google Brain, and the Medical Brain unit is solely focused on doing AI research and early product development within Healthcare. Alphabet (the holding company the owns Google) also owns the company Verily, so just within Google numerous projects and hundreds of people work with AI for Healthcare. Healthcare AI is already an impressive tech industry.
Judging by the numbers, even more money will be used on developing solutions that will change Healthcare dramatically over the next five to 20 years.
What's hot in artificial intelligence in healthcare?
Based on the number of new companies entering the space, the most popular use case of artificial intelligence in healthcare is imaging and diagnostics.
The promise of AI in diagnostics lies in a computer's ability to detect diseases like cancer at an early stage. Machine learning algorithms can compare a medical image with those of millions of other patients picking up on nuances that the human eye might miss.
The second most popular investment category is insights and risk analytics. This includes companies crunching structured and unstructured clinical data to surface information and predict risk.
Closely related to this application is AI in clinical trials where start-ups raise funds to match patients with ongoing trials based on their medical history.
Having looked at the AI space in healthcare more closely during the Applied AI project a multitude of solution areas have surfaced. The most interesting areas identified during our research are:
Through the Applied AI Project, we have selected three sample companies working with AI solutions for healthcare. Will they be successful in the long run is hard to say, but they illustrate AI solutions available today that support such different scenarios as diagnostics, matching patients to clinical trials and a smart assistant to the general practitioner.
The Capital Region covers the geographic area around Copenhagen, employs 38.000 people, has its administrative center in Hillerød and is the largest region in terms of citizens served (1,8 million as of January 2017). Other key figures from 2016-17 include:
The Capital Region (Region Hovedstaden) is one of five regions responsible for providing public healthcare services in Denmark. This responsibility covers the development and daily operation of 11 hospitals, psychiatric institutions and other healthcare practices in the Region.
The Capital Region has a political vision of being internationally recognized as a green, innovative metropol that ensure their citizens and patients a high life quality and delivers a consistent top-quality medical treatment. The ambition is to become one of the five most preferred places in the world for the development of health and welfare solutions.
Together with IBM, the Capital Region has carried out a seven month AI pilot project during 2016-17 looking at specific use cases for AI. Other themes, including legal and ethical aspects of using AI in healthcare, was also explored in that period.
Overall, the results of the project have been positive. The project group expects that artificial intelligence will have a major impact on the future of providing health care services in relation to prevention, diagnosis, treatment and planning of healthcare.
The Capital Region has decided to proceed with AI in larger scale following the pilot project. The ambition is to develop strategic partnerships and solutions, benefitting the Danish healthcare system and creating growth in Greater Copenhagen.
The Capital Region has identified a wide range of areas with great potential. These include oncology, diabetes treatment, and mammography screening. The initial findings reveal that further development and local adaptation is required before the technology can be fully implemented in the clinics.
Below are three scenarios where Region Hovedstaden imagines practical use of AI technology is possible. None of the described cases are implemented, but they are all project candidates for the Region’s continued work with AI in 2018.