The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare is on the rise, with the potential to make healthcare more accessible by reducing costs, increasing accuracy, and standardizing care.
As the population continues to grow and age the importance of accessibility in healthcare services such as preventive care and treatment for chronic illnesses cannot be overstated; such services not only contribute to individual health but also alleviate the overall burden of disease. Nevertheless, social determinants of health, particularly financial constraints, create several barriers to healthcare. Fortunately, artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming healthcare by improving efficiency, accuracy, and accessibility. AI refers to computer systems that mimic human intelligence and can perform tasks that typically require human intervention. These systems have a wide range of applications in healthcare, from diagnostics to drug discovery and patient monitoring. The use of AI is increasing, with healthcare providers and organizations recognizing the potential to revolutionize patient care. The utilization of AI in healthcare has the potential to significantly enhance healthcare service accessibility: by leveraging AI, healthcare services can become more cost-effective, resource-optimized, and standardized, breaking healthcare barriers and ensuring widespread access to high-quality healthcare.
There are several applications for AI in healthcare, including AI-powered tools and systems, which are used to assist physicians in diagnosing, treating, and monitoring patients, saving time and resources. These tools analyze large amounts of data and identify patterns that may not be apparent to humans. With the ability to analyze vast amounts of data in a fraction of the time it would take humans to do so and with consistent accuracy, AI has the potential to revolutionize healthcare. AI can also help healthcare providers identify patients who are at risk of developing chronic conditions, providing early interventions to prevent further complications.
AI enables standardization of care by improving access to accurate medical diagnoses. AI-powered imaging analysis can help detect diseases early, allowing for early interventions and better patient outcomes. This is particularly important for the management of chronic conditions which require consistent monitoring due to the complex nature of such diseases.
Diabetic retinopathy screening is an example of one application in which AI is being used to improve disease diagnosis and patient outcomes for patients living with a chronic condition. Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes that requires an annual screening for prevention and early diagnosis. While it is a treatable condition, due to lack of screening accessibility, it is the leading cause of vision loss in working-age adults in the US. Traditional screening methods rely on expensive specialist screenings and have very low adherence, with only 15-50% of individuals completing their recommended annual exam. With the use of AI-based diagnostic screening, diabetic retinopathy screening can now be performed at the patient’s primary care, replacing the need for inaccessible specialist screening. Not only does the screening save time, and money, it alleviates the inconvenience of specialist screening. Screening at a patient's point of care provides continuity of care and enhanced patient outcomes.
While AI has the potential to revolutionize healthcare, it also presents a range of challenges and considerations, including the need for regulatory oversight and equitable access to AI-assisted healthcare. To address these concerns, regulatory bodies such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) require rigorous testing protocols to ensure the accuracy and safety of AI tools. These protocols have resulted in the approval of several AI tools for use in healthcare. Nonetheless, ensuring equitable access to AI-assisted healthcare remains a crucial consideration, as the benefits of AI must be accessible to all members of society regardless of socio-economic status or geographic location. Therefore, continued efforts are needed to ensure that AI is used to improve accessibility and equity in healthcare.
AI has the potential to make healthcare more accessible and improve outcomes for patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes. The use of AI in healthcare can help reduce costs, optimize resources, and increase the accuracy and standardization of care. However, it is essential to address challenges and considerations to ensure that the benefits of AI in healthcare are realized for all patients.