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How Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics are transforming healthcare

Emeh Joy
By Emeh Joy

Basic Medical Scientist, Freelance Health Writer, Lifestyle Blogger and Business Enthusiast

It is no longer far-fetched; different reports have shown that artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics have great potentials to transform how healthcare is delivered- from increasing clinical productivity to improving the experience of healthcare professionals.

Application of artificial intelligence (AI) and Robotics in healthcare system

Today, artificial intelligence and robotics technology are transforming healthcare systems.

But how?

This article explores in detail how AI is used today in the healthcare industry to help clinicians meet the needs of patients and the general public.

Recently, artificial intelligence has led to a massive improvement in the way businesses are run and the life sciences sector.

The invention of different AI models has made work easier in hospital settings, thus reducing the clinical workload and burnout of health professionals.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated the digitalisation of healthcare in so many ways, such as increasing virtual doctor-patient care and the number of healthcare investors.

Some companies are already using artificial intelligence programs to pave new ways for medicine discovery. Some of those companies are Berg Health, Bioxcel Therapeutics, Atomwise, Deep Genomics and XtalPi.

Before delving into the core topic- "How AI and Robotics are transforming the healthcare system", let's first explain what AI and robotics are all about. What does artificial intelligence mean, and what problem does it aim to solve?

Meaning of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial intelligence, just like the name depicts, is the science of creating intelligent machines, particularly intelligent computers. AI is the science of making computers think and act like human beings.

Thus, its principle is based on making computers mimic human intelligence processes by creating algorithms built into a dynamic computer system and applying those algorithms.

Since Charles Babbage invented the first computer in the mid-1830s till now, computers have been undergoing different stages of evolution. One of its most incredible evolutionary phases is the phase of incorporating artificial intelligence into these electronic devices.

Some years ago, who would have thought that humans could create machines that solve problems like humans? But today, the invention of artificial intelligence has made that possible.

Alan Turing also called the "father of computer sciences" published a paper in 1950 titled "Computing Machinery and Intelligence." In the paper, he asked the question, "Can machines think?"

That paper and the accompanying test Turing developed known as the "Turing Test" remains vital in the history of AI.

Artificial intelligence makes it possible for computers to be trained to perform specific tasks (weak AI).

It also programs computers to have intelligence like humans; just like humans, it would solve both simple and complex problems and learn, plan, and organise big data (strong AI).

There are six major sub-fields of artificial intelligence. However, for the sake of sticking with the scope of this topic, we wouldn't delve into explaining these sub-fields; we would only list them out. The sub-fields of AI include:

One amazing thing about AI systems is that they can combine data from different sources, analyze the data and act on the insights derived from the data. They also have the ability to adapt and learn even as they make decisions.

Today's automated vehicles have advanced systems that can control the car and make all navigational decisions without human help.

Vehicles now also have tools that make it possible for the vehicles and their drivers to know about upcoming traffic congestion, potholes or any possible traffic obstruction. This is one exciting application of artificial intelligence in the automobile industry.

Artificial Intelligence applications

Artificial intelligence has been applied in several real-world scenarios today; it is no longer a mere vision of the founding fathers of computer. Some applications of artificial intelligence include:

  • Online customer service: Online virtual assistants are gradually replacing human agents in the business sphere. They answer frequently asked questions by customers, provide some personalised advice and make suggestions for users. Examples include tasks carried out by voice assistants and virtual assistants and the messaging or chatbots on e-commerce websites.
  • Speech recognition: This is also called computer speech recognition, automatic speech recognition or speech-to-text. It involves using natural language processing (NLP) to process human speech and convert it into a written format. Siri, for instance, uses speech recognition to conduct a voice search.
  • Computer vision: Have you ever wondered how radiology imaging in healthcare and photo tagging in social media works? Computer vision is an AI technology that makes it possible for computer systems to get meaningful information from videos, digital images and other visual inputs.

These are only a few examples of artificial intelligence applied in today's science and technology. There are other applications of AI (particularly in healthcare) that we will explore later in this article.

Difference between AI and Robotics

AI and Robotics are two separate fields of technology and engineering

Many people are confused about the terms- "Artificial intelligence and robotics". However, artificial intelligence and robotics are not the same.

AI and robotics are two separate fields of technology and engineering that can be combined to get an artificially intelligent robot with AI acting as the brain and robotics acting as the robot's body.

Robotics is a sub-field of engineering and technology that focuses on building and operating robots. Robots are machines programmed to carry out a task on their own.

Robots have sensors that enable them to interact with the physical world. They can move and are programmed to perform a specific task.

Integration of Robotics and AI

The line between AI and robotics seems blurry because robots are now incorporated with artificial intelligence.

A simple robot can be programmed to repeatedly carry a heavy load from one specific location until it is told to stop. However, with the addition of an AI algorithm and a camera, the robot will see, detect and determine what the load is and where it should be placed.

In robotics and AI integration, AI is the brain of the robots, while robotics is its body. This means that the integration of artificial intelligence and robotics can create robots that think, act and solve problems like humans.

However, one barrier to robotics is that robots do not have proprioception. Robots do not have a sense of awareness of muscles and parts of the body, just like humans.

Robots lack the "sixth sense", which is vital in movement coordination, But machine learning experts are currently trying to enable robots to acquire this "sixth sense".

7 Ways AI and Robotics are transforming healthcare

Ways AI and Robotics are applied to healthcare

People have asked questions regarding how AI is transforming the future of healthcare. AI and robotics are already being put into good use in several healthcare facilities and organisations.

They are being used in carrying out clinical tasks such as cancer research, robotic surgery, genetic testing and data collection.

Some benefits of implementing AI and robotics in the healthcare sector include:

  • AI and robotics help track the health status of patients
  • They help determine patients' priority assessment in emergency cases
  • They enable a quick, easy and continuous supply of medicine and medical equipment throughout the hospital facility using intelligent robots
  • AI makes it possible to program personalised health programs into robots; thus, enabling users to use the robots for different purposes

AI and robotics are already getting prevalent in the healthcare sector. They are actively involved in various segments of the healthcare sector.

From patient care to drug production and clinical researches, AI and robotics can help fasten medicine roll-out dates and enhance hospital operations. In many ways, AI and robotics are transforming the healthcare sector.

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Ways AI and robotics are transforming healthcare include:

  1. They are used in laboratories and hospital settings where they assist human treatment
  2. They help detect diseases early and accurately
  3. AI and robotics are applied in autopsy procedures
  4. They are used in clinical decision making
  5. They make telemedicine and remote treatment possible
  6. They replace human labour in hospitals
  7. AI and robotics ensure exceptional precision in hospital procedures

Let's fully discourse the applications of AI and Robotics in healthcare.

1. AI and Robotics used in human treatment

AI can help identify patients who are chronically ill and at risk of developing an adverse episode.

Artificial intelligence can help health professionals to use a more comprehensive approach to treat diseases, coordinate care plans better and help patients manage their health conditions better.

Robots also play important roles in human treatment. Nowadays, robots are used in laboratories and surgical rooms to help surgeons or even carry out surgeries themselves.

They are also programmed to carry out repetitive tasks in other hospital settings.

2. AI is used to detect diseases early and accurately

Artificial intelligence offers an extraordinary means of attaining reliable diagnostic processes. Currently, hospital facilities use AI to detect diseases like cancer in their early stages.

Asides from detecting diseases early, artificial intelligence technology paves ways for "accurate" detection or diagnosis of diseases.

The American Cancer Society reported that a significant percentage of mammograms yield false-positive results. The result of this is that people who do not have cancer are wrongly diagnosed with cancer.

The good news is that AI integration with health now enables a faster translation of mammograms with up to 99 per cent accuracy. Thus, reducing the rate of unnecessary biopsies carried out in the hospitals.

Also, advanced countries now have provisions for consumer wearables and other medical tools built with AI technology.

These devices help detect early stages of diseases like heart problems and cancer and enable doctors to monitor people and detect life-threatening episodes on time.

Other unique ways artificial intelligence and robotics are helping to reduce diagnostic errors and save lives include the use of tools and facilities such as:

  • Buoy Health: Buoy Health is a symptom and cure-checker built with AI-programmed software. Its algorithms diagnose patients and suggest cures to their illnesses by analysing their symptoms. Harvard Medical School makes use of this technology.
  • PathAI: PathAI is a machine-learning program that assists pathologists in making accurate cancer diagnoses. This AI organisation focuses on reducing diagnostic errors and developing novel ways for personalised patient treatment.
  • Enlitic: Enlitic uses deep learning to obtain valuable insights for assisting the radiology department in particular. It uses artificial intelligence to analyse random medical data, such as images, blood tests, genomics and patient medical history.

3. AI and Robotics application in autopsy procedures

AI and robotics can also be applied in autopsy procedures

The healthcare system uses autopsy results to develop healthcare quality outcome measures and quality assurance data.

Autopsy procedure is an approach to crime investigation that needs improvement, especially in developing and under-developed countries.

Bone sawing is an important aspect of the autopsy procedure. The human skull was typically cut open using a hand saw, which was laborious and consumed a considerable amount of time.

Sometimes, cutting a slippery skull could cause accidental injuries to the operator when it is not held firmly.

Later, oscillating saws emerged. This was helpful; however, it has some disadvantages. One of its most significant disadvantages is that it generates aerosol from bone cutting. This increases its risk of spreading hazardous pathogens such as HIV, streptococci and hepatitis B and C.

Much later, the development of robotic-assisted surgery showed that this surgical procedure could be further improved.

The robotic autopsy saw was developed. The robotic autopsy saw comprises an electric circuit connected to a battery which works by an analogue signal.

The robotic autopsy has a remote control system with buttons for controlling the speed of the saw blade, the rotation of the saw frame and the depth of the saw blade.

This fantastic new invention shows one of the ways AI and robotics are transforming the future of healthcare.

4. AI is now being applied in clinical decision-making

One way to improve healthcare is by ensuring that big health data is aligned with the right and timely decisions. Predictive analysis can help with decision-making. It would also help to have tools that can help prioritise administrative tasks.

AI is now gradually taking hold of the decision-making aspect of healthcare. It is now possible to use pattern recognition to find out patients prone to developing a health condition or notice the condition deteriorating on time.

5. Telemedicine and remote treatment

Nowadays, you need not visit the hospital to consult a doctor; you can consult a doctor right from the confines of your home over the internet using your computer or mobile device.

Initially, poor network connectivity posed a challenge to remote treatment. However, remote treatment has been made possible with the development of 4G and further experimentation of the 5G network.

We now have machines that perform complex clinical tasks independently. For instance, scientists and engineers have invented a bot-pill (the PillCam) that performs endoscopy (also called capsule endoscopy) efficiently and conveniently.

During the endoscopy, the bot travels through the intestine taking pictures of the gastrointestinal tract, after which you can eliminate it naturally.

Robots are now also built for the surgical rooms and programmed to operate on patients.

Robotics Bussiness Review reported in a 2019 article that a research team at Carnegie Mellon University and Pittsburgh's University was working on a trauma care system that functions with robots to treat wounded soldiers. This is one of the apparent applications of AI and robotics in healthcare.

6. Robots now replacing human labour in hospitals

Medical robots are now used in hospitals to carry out some tasks

One of the ways robotics has brought transformation in the healthcare industry is that it has made clinical duties less stressful for health workers. AI and robotics are helping hospitals reduce their workload.

Another application of robotics in the health sector is the emergence of supplementary robots. These robots help distribute stocks and medical equipment around the hospital, wherever and whenever they are needed.

In cases where the hospital staff have their hands full with many patients to treat, supplementary robots can help take care of other tasks such as disposing of the trash, restocking and cleaning.

One great example of a supplementary robot in the hospital setting is the UV Light Disinfectant Robot which delivers a specified dose of UVC light to disinfect targeted areas of the hospital. It significantly reduces pathogens even in shadowed areas.

7. AI and robotics ensuring exceptional precision in health procedures

Most robotic systems used in top hospitals of the world offer immense assistance and feasibility in carrying out both simple and complex tasks faster and more accurately.

The robots are very attentive to details, thus strengthening their core functionality and enabling them to carry out tasks with extremely high precision. The robots are integrated with AI, which enables them to learn and adapt while performing tasks.

The chances of failure with these robotic systems are very minimal as long as their software is correctly programmed.

However, in some cases, they may need human supervision or intervention to oversee the entire process and maintain the robotic systems.

The promising future of AI and Robotics in healthcare

There is a promising future for AI and robotics in the health sector. However, it will take a while before AI and Robotics are fully implemented in all aspects of the healthcare industry.

AI and Robotics will become more viable in the forthcoming years. The advantages of machine learning and robotics to healthcare can not be compared to the things humans can achieve manually.

From finding out the exact cause of a patient's medical condition to improving clinical workflow, Artificial intelligence and robotics will always benefit the healthcare sector.

However, human intervention will still be vital in ensuring the success and accuracy of the overall processes in healthcare facilities.

Also, the interpersonal relationships between patients and their caregivers can never be replicated or replaced by robots or machines.

Therefore, human intelligence and care will always be needed in conjunction with AI and robots to treat patients and deliver a soothing experience.