AI as the future of healthcare: how can it improve health outcomes?
During the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, 28 million US citizens were found to have no health insurance at any time of the year, according to the US Census Bureau.
Also, despite health insurance, some health services are not always covered, such as mental health services and follow-up screenings for breast cancer.
At this point, artificial intelligence (AI) can step in to provide quality health care options at lower cost. Companies like Vara and Paradromics are already working to improve access, affordability, and ultimately health care outcomes.
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What can AI-powered healthcare bring to Americans?
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, “AI could improve health outcomes by up to 40% and reduce treatment costs by up to 50% by improving diagnosis, increasing access to care, and enabling precision medicine”.
By 2025, if AI healthcare was properly implemented at scale, it could save the medical industry over $150 billion in costs.
Lu Zhang, founder of FusionFund, a venture capital firm focused on backing early-stage startups like Paradromics, said we could start with AI for medical imaging, AI for diagnostics, or AI for medical sequencing.
There is also more discussion about how we could improve workflow efficiency using AI.
Zhang added that when we talk about AI, we only think of AI algorithms, but there are also other AI products like AI robotics.
Read also : Americans spend more on health care than anyone else in the world
What can AI do in breast cancer screenings?
According to CDC reports, on average, 255,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women and 2,300 in men in the United States.
Therefore, individuals, especially women, are encouraged to have a mammogram every year. Health insurance plans usually covered the annual mammogram because it is preventive care.
However, if abnormalities are detected, they are then referred for a diagnostic mammogram, a screening less often covered by insurance.
One of the reasons Jonas Muff, founder and CEO of Vara, an AI-powered mammography screening platform, started his business is the high cost of diagnosis.
Vara offers a software screening service that can be installed on existing machines. It does not require hospitals or healthcare companies to invest in substantial new equipment. Muff says Vara uses AI on multiple fronts.
According to Muff, the software platform works to transparently filter out normal cancer-free mammograms.
Additionally, Vara’s technology also alerts the radiologist in case they have missed a potential case of cancer. This feature of Vara is called “safety net”, which, through its AI and machine learning, can detect potential cancer more quickly.
What can AI do for mental health diagnosis and treatment?
Mental health care and treatment is also often excluded from insurance coverage in the United States.
In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that one in five American adults lives with a mental illness.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), while steps have been taken to make mental health care more accessible, it is not enough.
Consequently, people who need treatment are left with few options or options that are usually unaffordable. This is where Paradromics, an AI-based company, steps in to bridge the gap.
Using AI and machine learning, Paradromics aims to develop a data interface that interacts directly with neural signals in the brain.
“Connexus Direct Data Interface”, one of the technologies the company is developing, collects a massive amount of individual neural signals with a fully implantable device designed for long-term daily service.
According to reports from Paradromics, its first clinical application, which is an assistive communication device for patients who have lost the ability to speak or type, will likely extend to mental health diagnostics in the future.
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