Artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to be a key enabler for both the transformation and the disruption of the healthcare ecosystem. The Chinese government has announced plans to invest billions in the technology. Vladimir Putin recently stated that whoever masters AI will rule the world. Elon Musk believes unregulated AI is a threat to the world. Others, such as Gary Kasparov, have a more positive view of AI’s potential contribution to the world. The Industrial Revolution automated manual work, the Information Revolution mental work, but machine learning automates automation itself.
The transformative power of technology has the potential to make the fundamental, necessary shift from reactive acute episodic care delivery toward proactive continuing and enduring care for everyone. It has the potential to harness data, turn it into applied knowledge, and do it more cheaply and with greater access, thus enabling a new health era.
In India, AI is still at a nascent stage. It certainly represents potentially the most disruptive leap in technology in decades. And given the heavily skewed ratio of doctor to patients at 1:1700, with 74 percent catering to the urban residents, the Indian rural healthcare industry is an excellent candidate for AI.
But the catch; As machine learning, semantic analytics, and cognitive computing are advancing at a remarkable clip, does true AI actually exist yet? While machine learning simply serves up results, AI must take pattern recognition one step further by planning a future action, based on previous results, calculating the probability of that action producing a positive outcome, and executing the action with the highest likelihood of achieving maximum success based on a wide range of constantly changing and often poorly defined parameters. While AI may someday rise to that challenge, machine learning on its own is never going to replace that deep and unique human capacity to detect when something is amiss. What it can do is fill in the natural knowledge gaps that come from the fact that humans cannot read, remember, and faultlessly apply the entire corpus of relevant medical history to each and every patient.