Artificial intelligence (AI) enables machines to extract, integrate, exchange, and analyze large heterogeneous datasets to answer complex problems in a timely manner. The promise of AI in healthcare and medicine has been embraced by many computer scientists, clinicians, and policymakers.
This chapter aims to provide an overview of the use of artificial intelligence methods and technologies in healthcare and medicine to support clinical and public health decisions to improve the health of individuals and populations, narrow health disparities, decrease healthcare costs, and improve overall human well-being.
After providing a brief background information on the role of AI in health and medicine and introducing some of the most common AI approaches for predictive modeling in this domain, the chapter will discuss different facets of health intelligence along with several example applications.
How Artificial Intelligence Works
AI works by combining large amounts of data with fast, iterative processing and intelligent algorithms, allowing the software to learn automatically from patterns or features in the data. AI is a broad field of study that includes many theories, methods and technologies, as well as the following major subfields:
Machine learning automates analytical model building. It uses methods from neural networks, statistics, operations research and physics to find hidden insights in data without explicitly being programmed for where to look or what to conclude.
A neural network is a type of machine learning that is made up of interconnected units (like neurons) that processes information by responding to external inputs, relaying information between each unit. The process requires multiple passes at the data to find connections and derive meaning from undefined data.
Deep learning uses huge neural networks with many layers of processing units, taking advantage of advances in computing power and improved training techniques to learn complex patterns in large amounts of data. Common applications include image and speech recognition.
Cognitive computing is a subfield of AI that strives for a natural, human-like interaction with machines. Using AI and cognitive computing, the ultimate goal is for a machine to simulate human processes through the ability to interpret images and speech – and then speak coherently in response.
Computer vision relies on pattern recognition and deep learning to recognize what’s in a picture or video. When machines can process, analyze and understand images, they can capture images or videos in real time and interpret their surroundings.
Natural language processing (NLP) is the ability of computers to analyze, understand and generate human language, including speech. The next stage of NLP is natural language interaction, which allows humans to communicate with computers using normal, everyday language to perform tasks.
Additionally, several technologies enable and support AI:
Graphical processing units are key to AI because they provide the heavy compute power that’s required for iterative processing. Training neural networks requires big data plus compute power.
The Internet of Things generates massive amounts of data from connected devices, most of it unanalyzed. Automating models with AI will allow us to use more of it.
Advanced algorithms are being developed and combined in new ways to analyze more data faster and at multiple levels. This intelligent processing is key to identifying and predicting rare events, understanding complex systems and optimizing unique scenarios.
APIs, or application programming interfaces, are portable packages of code that make it possible to add AI functionality to existing products and software packages. They can add image recognition capabilities to home security systems and Q&A capabilities that describe data, create captions and headlines, or call out interesting patterns and insights in data.
In summary, the goal of AI is to provide software that can reason on input and explain on output. AI will provide human-like interactions with software and offer decision support for specific tasks, but it’s not a replacement for humans – and won’t be anytime soon.