How artificial intelligence could impact the healthcare sector

How artificial intelligence could impact the healthcare sector
Collating and analysing data can hold the key to better patient insight and risk identification

Toby Ingleton |

For an organisation like Microsoft, the emergence of new technologies and how best to incorporate these into modern working practices is very much front of mind.

One sector where the benefits of technology can make a crucial difference is healthcare. Technologies and solutions that can improve insight and efficiency can have a huge impact.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one area that has been identified as capable of having a potentially radical effect, and the topic was keenly discussed at this week’s Microsoft Health Innovation Summit in Brussels, Belgium. 

Cloud-based technology provider and Microsoft partner Tieto is looking into how AI can enhance practices within the healthcare sector. Matti Ristimäki, director of data-driven businesses in public, health and wellbeing at Tieto, has reflected on how AI can be used in the healthcare space in a new blog post.

“A coherent approach is vital as the number of health and wellbeing data sources available for both consumers and healthcare professionals have increased hugely over the last years,” he said. “This has been driven by advances in technology and start-up culture, such as special applications, mobile devices, personal gadgets and internet of things sensors that can more accurately track an individual’s activities, and this is just the beginning.”

One major challenge in the sector is the collation of data. Tieto has been working to build a data lake service that enables healthcare organisations to pool data from a wide range of disparate sources.

“This will help overcome the issue of large amounts of unstandardised data and create a great foundation from which to perform critical analytics tasks,” Ristimäki said.

The next phase sees the introduction of new technologies, such as AI and machine learning.

“At the moment, the first stage of any development is being able to apply relatively simple analytics to this data in order to gain insight about patients,” said Ristimäki. “The next phase brings in technologies such as machine learning and advanced AI solutions that can examine vast quantities of data, such as genomic information, in order to perform calculations and identify correlations that can be passed on to the doctor.”

Ristimäki predicts that AI will ultimately change healthcare models, making them proactive rather than reactive, and the industry in general will shift from being hospital centre to human centric.

According to Ristimäki, this transition will take place over a number of phases. In the first phase, professionals will be able to identify patients at risk of a particular condition, and introduce preventative steps that tackle risk factors. Then, in later stages, preventative guidance can be given to individuals automatically thanks to AI technology.

Ristimäki said: “Not only does this lead to better patient outcomes, but it will also be much cheaper in the long run for healthcare organisations, as it will reduce the need for costly treatment programmes and at the same time keeping citizens more wellbeing tax payers.”

Ristimäki added that with so much data out there in the healthcare space, collaboration is vital.

“That’s why I’m pleased that Tieto will be part of Microsoft’s AI in Healthcare Alliance Program,” he said. “Being able to share research and expertise with other companies and work together on developing improved AI and machine learning solutions for healthcare is the key to improving the use of data in healthcare, and I’m very excited about what it promises for the future.”

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