Digital Technology
May 01, 2017

Artificial Intelligence in medical science: Fact or fiction? Part 1 - How technology empowers consumers

Before we get into discussing the new child on the block “Artificial Intelligence,” it is important to understand its parents, who gave birth to this offspring. I typically refer “Technology” as the father and “Data” as the mother of AI whose unique relationship is making everyone turn their heads to their child named “Artificial Intelligence”; which cannot be ignored any longer. This three blog series, covering the journey of artificial intelligence (AI) will focus on three members of this family:

  1. Chapter I: The Father – Technology Empowering Consumers
  2. Chapter II: The Mother – Consumerization of Data
  3. Chapter III: The Child – Artificial Intelligence in Medical Science (Real or Reel)

Chapter I: The Father of AI – Technology Empowering Consumers
If you are from the baby boomer generation, you probably have witnessed the evolution of technology for the longest time. Way back in 1942 when first electromagnetic computer was built using ~ 750,000 mechanical parts, weighed 5 tons and was as big as our office spaces; didn't even have storing capacity until next 5-10 years. Magnetic tapes like floppy disc etc revolutionized the data storage in 1960s.

Evolution of technology

Computing was still a phenomenon restricted to large organizations until Apple introduced the concept of personal computing through the launch of its first personal micro-computer in 1977. Since then, there have been many innovations in the form of electronic mail (e-mail), telephone, Microsoft Windows, worldwide web, mobile, smartphone, social media platforms, etc that have all been empowering the consumers of today. However, there is one single trend that's emerging from these series of innovations - Shift of “Computing” power center from a large organization to individual consumers. Today, every new technology has to pass the survival test of consumers and organizations have to only follow suite. It is no longer about the big mainframe computers that only a lucky few organizations could afford but the evolution in technology has resulted in smaller devices with large storing spaces at much cheaper prices that is touching 7 billion lives on this earth.

The healthcare and life sciences industry has not been immune to this change either. From x-rays in 19th century to CT scan and MRI in 20th century and to DNA sequencing in early 21stcentury, every technological evolution has been path-breaking and giving medical sciences better understanding of their patients and causes of their disease. Through the use of these advanced technologies, companies are constantly trying to innovate newer ways of treatment that are not only effective but are also cost efficient. We all know drawing blood for glucose testing and insulin shots are the most painful solution for diabetic management. But, wearables are disrupting the treatment of this chronic disease that has already affected half a billion lives worldwide. One of the companies in Philadelphia is developing a transdermal biosensor that reads blood composition through the skin without drawing blood. Their technology involves a handheld electric-toothbrush-like device that removes just enough top-layer skin cells to put the patient's blood chemistry within signal range of a patch-borne biosensor tracking glucose levels over time. So, painful insulin shots will soon be a passé.

Telemedicine or internet based consultation is yet another evolution that is shortening the distance between patients and physicians in this virtual world. Today, patients are surrounded by hundreds of health apps that help them to constantly monitor their calorie intake, drug dosages, and lifestyle patterns.

All this technology evolution is uniquely empowering patients (consumers) each day to take better control of their health! It is for this reason that I call technology "the “father" of AI; as it led to the commercialization of the much-needed computing power, that forms the most integral and fundamental components of artificial intelligence. In the next blog, I will discuss the importance of other parent " data". Stay tuned!

About the author

Deepika Goel

Deepika Goel

Vice President, Head of Healthcare and Life Sciences at Analytics Practice

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