The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) was first coined in 1956. Since that time, AI underwent many overly-ambitious promises that never came to reality, until now. Today’s AI is experiencing a true revolution that is changing every industry and every aspect of our society. “Technology has already disrupted and transformed many other major industries,” notes The Glassell Family Foundation Distinguished Chair in Informatics Excellence Dean Jiajie Zhang, PhD, “and now the healthcare industry is having its transformation.”

The massive growth of data and computing power in the past few years, coupled with refined algorithms, have led to many AI technology solutions. These solutions are helping to solve complex real-world problems, such as speech recognition, image understanding, and robotics, that have challenged engineers for many decades.

The quest to meaningfully use AI in healthcare has not gone unnoticed by large corporations or the government. Both entities see the value in applying AI practices within medicine. Google is currently working to determine how artificial intelligence can be used in healthcare. Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently launched the CMS Artificial Intelligence (AI) Health Outcomes Challenge. CMS is tasking participates with demonstrating how “AI tools – such as deep learning and neural networks – can be used to predict unplanned hospital and skilled nursing facility admissions and adverse events.” CMS will even award $1.65 million in prize money to both finalists and award winners who are successful.

During a recent presentation on the “State of Medical AI,” Dean Zhang explored the many advances AI has undergone in recent years while also examining the benefits it offers in present day.

“I was a doctoral student at the University of California, San Diego in 1986 when Dr. David Rumelhart and his colleagues Drs. Geoffrey Hinton and Ronald Williams discovered backpropagation; the most important algorithm for deep learning.” Zhang continued, “During that time, there was very little data to utilize and a small amount of computing power to use. But now, AI is bringing real, material changes in all industries, including medicine and healthcare.”

There are three major drivers for the AI revolution in healthcare: mobile internet, computing, and Big Health data. Mobile internet includes the many devices we use daily to quickly access information, like smart phones, sensors, the internet of things, and the upcoming 5G connectivity. Over time, computing has become less expensive and incredibly powerful. All the advanced computing technologies are enabled by powerful machine learning and AI algorithms. Lastly, Big Health data, which includes clinical data, genomic and biological data, environmental data, behavioral data, and social and economic data, gives us access to all the important data needed for AI advances in healthcare.

Students, faculty and staff at SBMI benefit from the large amount of medical AI research taking place at the school. Zhang says, “SBMI has researchers working on advancing healthcare by applying AI technology to precision cancer medicine, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases, sepsis prediction, mental health, population health, and more. Our school is one of the largest programs dedicated to medical AI research and applications.”

In all, AI offers extensive advantages and is a promising way to further advance healthcare. Zhang notes that despite the exponential data and technological advantages AI offers, “the future of AI and health is about human-technology integration and not focused on machines replacing doctors.”

To see Zhang’s entire “State of Medical AI” presentation, please click the video below.

published on 04/26/2019 at 9:26 a.m.