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  • Alex Hattaway

How Artificial Intelligence Could Help Prevent 80% of Chronic Diseases

The world is in need of innovative solutions—and AI holds the answer.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has seen significant innovation since the 1960s. It’s a relatively daunting term that we are all familiar with, yet probably have no idea how it works and how many times we encounter it in our day to day lives.

The relationship between technology and healthcare is always evolving and at some pace, with a wealth of health tech available that collects masses of biodata and provides consumers with a user-friendly overview of their body. You may go for a cycle ride and monitor the evolutions in heart rate per mile, or you may like to track your sleep throughout the week.

But what if accessible digital health technology could provide accurate and actionable advice deciphered from something as accessible as your smartphone?

This is where AI has the potential to transform health technology from simply remote monitoring, to emulating the diagnostic approach of a clinician and potentially saving lives. With 80% of chronic diseases being preventable, and a global healthcare system that is under increased strain, the world is in need of innovative solutions—and AI holds the answer.

Prevention Over Cure

Most diseases develop over a cycle, with each stage providing warning signals that often present themselves within vital sign measurements. If the average consumer was able to regularly check their key health signals such as blood oxygen levels, heart rate variability and sleep patterns, this would offer a pretty holistic outline of their physical health. However, to most people, these stats would mean very little—yet they could represent a bigger picture.

AI has the ability to monitor this data and highlight any possible causes for concern. This could be broken sleep, or low blood oxygen levels — whatever the anomaly in data, this could signify a health issue in the early stages of the disease cycle. AI therefore has the potential to transform healthcare systems from “Sick Care” to “Health Care” by enabling early intervention and ultimately, the prevention of chronic diseases. The result of this is that it will eliminate the need for medical intervention further down the line and therefore reduce the strain on healthcare providers who are already struggling to cope with the current volume of patients.

Is It Time to Evolve Our Employment of AI?

For too long, AI developers have focused their efforts around machine learning, which teaches computers to learn from experience by applying equations to huge data sets. Tech companies across the world have been trying to code doctors out and replace them with machine learning algorithms, which fails to address the need for reasoning within medical practice. Doctors and clinicians are some of the most qualified people in the world and to believe they can be replaced with machine learning algorithms does not represent a sustainable or suitable solution. Instead, this approach merely imitates human intelligence with a complete absence of cognition and is attempting to view the human body and diagnostic process as an algorithm.

This highlights the need for innovation that builds preventative care solutions that cater to every individual — irrespective of their age, medical history, family medical history and lifestyle.

So, What’s the Answer?

Most commonly, in the disease cycle, intervention occurs way beyond baseline risk, earliest molecular detection and earliest clinical detection. Instead, people seek medical help at the latter stages of the disease cycle, which, in turn, incurs higher costs, a higher disease burden and the reduced prospect of reversibility.

The focus should be on prevention and it’s essential to not only gather the data but also to make sense of that data and to generate personalized actionable advice that adapts to the uniqueness of each individual. Centralizing this technology in an accessible format is paramount when developing a technology that will make a real difference. If a user can obtain health data by simply scanning their face or fingertip using a smartphone, and for this data to be stored and interpreted in real time, would transform people's understanding of their own body. What you are left with is essentially a “check engine” light for the human body — which is supported by actionable advice on whether to seek medical help.

With this comprehensive picture of physical and mental health, individuals will only seek the expertise of medical professionals when they really need them and when they do, it will likely require far less resources than if it was left until a later date. Obtaining this is the gold standard for health technology and consumers will genuinely have “good health in the palm of their hand.”

What Does the Future Have in Store?

Global aging populations are growing exponentially, and in the U.S., there is a growing demand for healthcare. If we are to achieve a true era of ‘smart care,’ a new form of AI is needed. AI that can not only emulate the cognition of a clinician, but present itself in people’s lives in a way that is digestible, affordable, and accurate. At AI Nexus Healthcare, we describe this as ‘hybrid AI’ — combining the revolutionary capabilities of AI with the agency and intelligence of medical professionals.

The world is in need of innovative digital solutions that can make a genuine difference. With this approach, we can redirect the capabilities of AI towards providing a supplementary tool that fulfils the needs of the industry and ultimately, prevents more chronic diseases.

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