Have you ever wondered why if confronted with any illness symptoms that appear even a bit abnormal, we prefer to consult with a doctor in a large hospital only, even though a more competent doctor may have a clinic next door itself.
And have you ever wondered that what that preference has to do with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)!
To explain that, let me recount what happened to me twenty-one years back. I vividly remember that incident from 1997 that I can now relate well to the significance AI and ML are having in healthcare currently!
I was being examined by a leading physician at Agra (who had an experience of over twenty-five years and had a roaring practice) for a pain near my left toe. The conversation progressed as follows:
I: Doc Sahib, please have a look at my left toe. I am troubled by a severe pain for over last three weeks. I cannot put my foot down or wear the shoes even.
Doctor: Did you ever have this type of pain before?
Doctor: (Examining the pain area closely) Do you feel any irritation, or feel any urge to scratch that area?
Doctor: Do you eat lot of red meat?
I: No! I am a vegetarian.
Doctor: Do you like to eat lot of tomatoes, or cheese, or spinach or any other high protein foods.
I: Yes. Very frequently have cheese-spread, and baked beans in breakfast, and of course tomato in some form is generally there in all meals.
Doctor: (Prepares a slip for the diagnostic lab) Please have the uric acid blood test done as I suspect you have gout.
I: Thanks, Doctor. Will come back later with the test results.
(Later during the day)
I: (Handing over the lab report) Here Doc Sahib. Please have a look at the report.
Doctor: (Going through the test report) That is what I thought. You have gout! Your uric acid level is 12.4 mg/dl which ideally should have been between 3.5 mg/dl – 7.0 mg/dl. I will immediately start the medication.
(The doctor then spent few minutes to explain what gout was and how it impacted my health, and my lifestyle.)
I: Any restrictions on diet?
Doctor: Yes. For the time being completely stop eating your favorites – cheese, tomato, spinach and all dals (lintels) except ‘moong’ dal.
The treatment started that same day, and within three weeks the pain had substantially subsided, and gout was well under control.
What I have narrated above was actually the Step 3 of the treatment plan that I had followed for almost three weeks before I met that doctor at Agra.
Now after twenty-one years when I analyze that line of treatment, I realize that
By applying AI and ML techniques and solutions in healthcare it may now become possible to make available the accumulated I and L – resulting from the large number of successful (and unsuccessful) treatments by various experienced doctors – to those competent but less experienced physicians.
With access to an appropriate AI/ML system, even a physician in a small clinic in a remote location could
For the patient:
For the healthcare provider:
Thus, it is imperative that all instances of successes and failures, arising out of using any AI/ML system, are fed back into that system to ensure constant refinement of its algorithms. That will result in it providing even more accurate outcomes for future users.
From the above it is evident that an AI/ML system can be a powerful ally of a physician and its deployment should not be termed as “man against machine” by any means.
In my opinion, AI/ML technologies are still meant to assist the medical fraternity and are not really likely to replace doctors (at least in foreseeable future)!
The article has been republished here with the authors permission. The article was first published in the authors’ linkedin pulse page.