How is artificial intelligence used in healthcare

Artificial intelligence in the health industry

How AI can contribute to better and cheaper healthcare

The revolution in medicine

Artificial intelligence is the key technology of the future - especially in the health sector. It can help to detect diseases earlier, to provide better care for people and to cut healthcare spending in Europe alone by hundreds of billions in the next ten years, as a PwC study shows. But the road to get there is rocky, because artificial intelligence is based on large databases that first have to be built up. Regulatory issues, for example in the area of ​​data protection, also need to be clarified. That is probably one reason why 64 percent of German decision-makers in the healthcare industry recognize the power of change, but only 30 percent have taken concrete steps. How can artificial intelligence be used successfully in healthcare? Six principles are decisive here.

Download study "Sherlock in Health", PDF (1.76 MB)

Six success factors for the use of AI

1. Corporate culture: make artificial intelligence a management task

Artificial intelligence is changing a company's DNA in the health sector. This change needs a strong leader at the top - with the ability to think strategically and foresight in order to develop an AI vision of the future, a high level of technological understanding, the willingness to act agile, constant adaptation and responsible decision-making. AI enables decision-making based on large amounts of data. In the management of hospitals, for example, the technology can help to better control utilization.

2. Workforce: Strengthen the trust of doctors and other health professionals in artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence will not replace jobs in the healthcare sector, but it will change the job profiles significantly. This is felt above all by the employees who deal with the diagnosis of diseases such as cancer and diseases from the fields of neurology and cardiology. This requires a high level of trust in the intelligent diagnostic tool from doctors and other health professionals. However, AI rewards them with shorter waiting times for the result and more time for the individual patient. In the future, routine processes in the healthcare sector can be delegated to learning computer systems, while employees will primarily be asked for the skills that human intelligence requires: solving problems, leading people, creating innovations. The further training and development of the workforce must be oriented towards this goal.

3. Clinical Benefit: Addressing the patient's needs

Artificial intelligence is changing everyday hospital life and creating better care for patients, for example in the area of ​​cancer diagnosis and the early detection of dementia and heart disease. The technology has particularly proven itself in three areas:

Imaging procedures:
Machine learning can support the doctor in evaluating x-rays, for example, and thus ensures more precise diagnoses.

Decision making:
Technologies such as natural language processing can capture language and process it on the basis of algorithms. In this way, you help the doctor make decisions.

Self-monitoring of the patient: 
Wearables, previously mainly used as fitness trackers, are developing into a medical instrument, for example for monitoring values ​​in chronic diseases.

Decisive in use: the clinical effectiveness and the benefit for the patient.

4. Economic benefits: Realize savings in the three-digit billions

Artificial intelligence can make an enormous contribution to global economic growth - through increased productivity and changed customer behavior. According to a global PwC study, global gross domestic product will grow by 15.7 trillion US dollars by 2030. AI will provide a particularly large growth spurt in the healthcare sector. PwC has looked at three common clinical pictures that cause high costs:

Early detection of obesity in children:
Clinical studies show that the health data of two-year-olds show how high their risk of obesity is. Targeted preventive measures could save around 90 billion euros over the next ten years.

Early detection of dementia:
Artificial intelligence enables early detection of dementia with an accuracy of 82 to 90 percent. If the disease is detected at an early stage, around eight billion euros can be saved over the next ten years. Alzheimer's diseases can often be diagnosed on the basis of regular preventive examinations.

Diagnosing and treating breast cancer:
AI not only enables early detection of this disease, but also a tailored therapy. Artificial intelligence can predict how a patient will likely react to chemotherapy. The savings potential in this area is estimated at 74 billion euros over the next ten years.

Childhood obesity will become increasingly common

5. Society: cultivate dialogue with the public

The interest of patients in artificial intelligence is increasing: a good half of the insured would be willing to get involved with artificial intelligence in medicine in the future, almost half can imagine having minor interventions carried out by a robot. The willingness, however, depends to a large extent on how precisely and how quickly diagnostic and therapeutic instruments work. Public trust is an important factor in the spread of AI. There is a clear difference in acceptance between the industrialized and emerging countries: While people in poorer countries are more open to robots and machine learning, insured persons in rich countries with a highly developed health system are more skeptical. It is all the more important to maintain a continuous exchange with the public.

Percentage of respondents willing or not willing to deal with AI and robotics for their health needs (total sample)

6. Ethics, regulation and data protection: Stand up for “Responsible AI”

Is the computer always right? Or to put it another way: Who takes responsibility for diagnoses that a patient receives from his doctor on the basis of large amounts of data? The concept of “Responsible AI” is spreading around the world to clarify questions about regulation, ethics and data protection. Artificial intelligence needs a high degree of regulation, especially in the healthcare sector, but also freedom for innovation. A central topic is the area of ​​data protection for those affected, because artificial intelligence requires that large amounts of data be stored and exchanged. The General Data Protection Regulation applies to Europe, but many questions remain open at international level. Countries like China, for example, are pursuing an aggressive AI strategy that gives those affected fewer rights. Health care institutions that want to use artificial intelligence responsibly work closely with the authorities in their country and also maintain cross-border exchanges on the subject of regulation.

“Artificial intelligence will revolutionize medicine. So far we have always faced a conflict of objectives: either to improve the quality of care or to reduce the costs for the insured. AI makes both possible at the same time. Patients will bene fi t enormously from this. "

Michael Burkhart Head of Health Economics at PwC