Now the time is right for AI to put health care on its head

Technological development in the realm of artificial intelligence is increasingly picking up speed and, consequently, many industries have come to experience AI’s vast potential. Particularly, the industry surrounding health care is deemed to change drastically in the age of artificial intelligence. According to a past research paper by the analyst firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) (5), there are four distinct trends that contribute to the rise of AI in the health sector and render this fascinating technology as meaningful and feasible as ever.


To begin with, the massive increase in the generation as well as availability of health data is playing in favour of efficient machine-based solutions involving artificial intelligence. Back in 2013 already, the entire pool of health-related data was estimated at approximately 4.4 trillion gigabytes and is deemed to grow exponentially to reach a storage value of 44 trillion gigabytes by 2020 (1).


Another significant trend in the health care realm is the shift of information technology development towards medical platforms and solutions. In today’s health industry, one is mainly focused on “real-time, outcome-based care” (5). Leveraging cutting-edge AI capabilities, however, will provide individuals with intelligent solutions concerning collaborative and preventive care.


Furthermore, the growth of wireless connectivity which is linking millions of mobile devices across the globe will be particularly relevant for democratising and advancing the usage of artificial intelligence. The fact that already today many smartphones and other wireless devices are capable of utilizing powerful AI tools shows that – in terms of hardware- we are on the brink of harnessing AI technology which would then enable consumers to “proactively manage their own health and wellness, and make better, more informed decisions” (5).


Lastly, PWC (5) highlights the shifting mindset of individuals concerning their own health. People, nowadays, are increasingly proactive and feel the urge of shaping their care to their particular demands and preferences.


All of the above emerging trends are building the foundation for a new health industry that is more tailored towards collaborative, intelligent and preventive care. But once the stage is entirely set for AI to take over health services, to what extent will the technology disrupt existing health care provision, and will it ultimately be a transformation to the benefit of consumers?


As mentioned earlier, one of AI’s biggest positive impacts will occur in the practice of medicine and personal health care in that it supports individuals to live a healthier lifestyle. Through the use of AI and interactive IoT networks, we are bound to enter an era of “early disease identification and prevention” (2) and, ultimately, AI will enable people and doctors to control their information and manage their health more proactively.


Furthermore, artificial intelligence will take a major role in tasks such as successful disease diagnosis and decision making. In a world in which health-related data is available in abundance, doctors will have the ability to flag patient’s illnesses in advance as well as track the effectiveness of treatments of chronic illnesses remotely. Ultimately, there will be a day when “data will be able to inform an AI algorithm about a patient’s condition and AI will advise on which treatment the doctor needs to prescribe” (2). Already today, there have been cases in which algorithms and neural networks scanned through vast data sets in order to support health organizations in decision-making and diagnosis. For example, after only “10 minutes cross-referencing the patient’s genetic changes with 20 million cancer research papers” (3), the Watson AI super-computer of IBM accurately diagnosed a woman with a special kind of leukaemia and, thereby, saved her life within minutes.


Lastly, AI technology will transform the domain of drug research and minimize both the time to market for new drugs as well as their research and development costs. According to the California Biomedical Research Association (4), an average development time of 12 years is needed to get a certain new drug from research phase to its consumption by consumers and only a minority of novel drug compounds actually make it to human testing. In addition, it is an astonishingly costly process for pharmaceutical companies to come up with a new drug and get it institutionally approved. On average, firms spend approximately a billion dollars for R&D per drug and “by directing the latest advances in AI to streamline the drug discovery and drug repurposing processes” (5) this financial burden could eventually be scaled down drastically.


In conclusion, one can definitely say that the usage of artificial intelligence in medicine and health care provision will be a crucial transformation agent that comes to the benefit of consumers. AI will enhance peoples’ well-being, support the early detection of diseases, increase the probability of successful diagnosis and cut drug development costs immensely. And with many of today’s technological and social trends aligning in AI’s favour, now surely is the right time for AI to disrupt the health industry and put it on its head.




  1. “Artificial Intelligence Will Redesign Healthcare.” The Medical Futurist. Accessed July 11, 2018.


  1. “AI as a Force for Good.” MIT Technology Review. Accessed July 11, 2018.


  1. “IBM’s Watson AI Saves Woman’s Life By Diagnosing Rare Form of Leukaemia.” HuffPost UK. Accessed July 11, 2018.


  1. “New Drug Development Process.” California Biomedical Research Association. Accessed July 11, 2018.


  1. “What Doctor? – Why AI and Robotics Will Define New Health.” PWC Global. Accessed July 11, 2018.