The global pandemic strengthened our understanding and sense of the importance of our own health and the fragility of health systems around the world. We have all realized how archaic many of our health processes are and that, if we really want to, we can evolve at lightning speed. This is already leading to a massive acceleration in both the investment and application of artificial intelligence in healthcare and medicine ecosystems.
Modern medicine in the 20th century benefited from unprecedented scientific breakthroughs, resulting in improvements in all aspects of healthcare. As a result, human life expectancy has increased from 31 years in 1900 to 72 years in 2017. Today, I think we are on the dawn of another health revolution, that of artificial intelligence (AI). Advances in AI will usher in the era of modern medicine indeed.
Over the next few decades, we can expect medical diagnosis to evolve from an AI tool that provides options analysis to an AI assistant who recommends treatments.
Digitization enables powerful AI
The healthcare industry is witnessing massive digitization of everything from patient records and X-ray data to portable computing and multiomics. It will redefine healthcare as a data-driven industry, and when it does, it will harness the power of AI – its ability to continually improve with more data.
When there is enough data, AI can do a much more accurate diagnostic and treatment job than human doctors by absorbing and verifying billions of cases and results. AI can take everyone’s data into account to tailor treatment accordingly, or track a massive number of new drugs, treatments, and studies. To do all this well is beyond human capacity.
I predict that diagnostic AI will outperform all but the best physicians over the next 20 years. Studies have shown that AI trained on important data can outperform physicians in several areas of medical diagnostics involving brain tumors, eye disease, breast cancer, skin cancer, and lung cancer. More trials are needed, but as these technologies are deployed and more data is collected, AI outperforms doctors.
We will eventually see diagnostic AI for general practitioners, one disease at a time, to gradually cover all diagnoses. Over time, AI may become able to act as a general practitioner or a family doctor.