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AI in Medicine is a possible hot topic that could crop up in your Medical School interview – and having an understanding of how it is important to the development of Medicine is crucial. This guide explains what you need to know about AI in Medicine, and how it could help you answer interview questions, too.

What Is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is “the ability of a computer or other machine to perform actions thought to require intelligence.”

AI is therefore an umbrella term for a computer being able to make decisions. The way in which ‘it’ does this, how it gathers data, interprets and produces an output, is brought about in different ways.

Many systems we use today use technology supported by AI infrastructures, which often go unnoticed. Amazon’s Alexa is an example. The computer recognises spoken word and can respond. AI is beginning to be used in Medicine and has many potential applications.

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How Is AI Being Used in Medicine Already?

There are several examples of how AI is being adopted for Medicine, both in the UK and internationally:

Medical Diagnosis

AI systems are being designed to accurately diagnose disease from medical imaging scans and microscope slides.

Examples:

  • Cancers and other diseases can be detected at earlier stages, offering better long-term outcomes.
  • AI is also being used to assist in screening processes. This includes in IVF, to determine how likely a fertilised embryo is to result in a successful pregnancy.

In Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy normally uses generic dose prescriptions that don’t consider the characteristics of individual tumours. However, an AI framework has been developed to use a patient’s CT scans and electronic health records to create a specific individualised dose.

For Virtual Nursing

  • Virtual nurses are robots designed to monitor health.

Examples:

  • Wearable devices, offering advice and guidance to patients in their own homes, as well as remind people to take their medications on time.
  • There is a wearable device, called Current, which measures a patient’s pulse, temperature, respiration and oxygen saturation, giving doctors regular updates on their patient’s health, and can be used both in hospitals and at home.
  • Researchers have also developed a way of incorporating AI into smartwatches to detect hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is often not picked up.

Virtual nursing could be implemented in line with the NHS 111 service, however, it’s worth considering the general public opinion on talking to a robot – would the benefits of having no waiting time sway people’s view?

Robotic Surgery

Robots have been developed, which are able to carry out routine operations. Recent research has shown that these surgeries can have up to a five-fold reduction in surgical complications. This, partnered with the decrease in staff required and time saved, could be a promising investment for the future.

Example:

  • Many NHS hospitals now use robotic technology to help with certain operations, including knee and hip replacements and prostate cancer surgery.

Information Services

The Department of Health recently announced a partnership between the NHS and Amazon’s Alexa, so that Alexa now automatically searches NHS websites when asked medical questions.

By integrating the NHS website content directly into Alexa’s core knowledge base, it is able to reach a far wider user base as users do not need to enable this skill in advance.

The government is hoping this will reduce demand on Doctors and will benefit elderly people, blind people and people that cannot easily search for health advice on the internet. Some people are concerned about how any confidential data relating to patient queries will be stored but Amazon has confirmed all data will be kept confidential and encrypted.

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What Are The Practical Uses Of  AI In Medicine?

Earlier Diagnosis

A great deal of diagnosis is about recognising patterns. For example, radiologists will look at x-ray images to spot potential disease. However, if we spot subtler patterns earlier, perhaps the disease could be diagnosed at an earlier stage.

This is where AI comes in – computers can be programmed to read data. Using algorithms, very subtle changes can be detected, either as the precursor of a disease or before it has propagated.

Data Collection

Currently, the NHS is still very reliant on paper files and most of its IT systems are not based on open standards; limiting the exchange of data and information across the NHS.

If the NHS wants to use accurate AI algorithms there needs to be an improvement in how data is collected and stored and in the quality of the data, as these algorithms are reliant on the data they are fed.

What Is The Goal For The Future?

The government aims to make the NHS a world-leader in healthcare innovation and recognises the importance of AI. Whilst there are significant costs of developing these systems, there are often projected savings in the long run. When we consider the current state of the NHS and the problems it faces, it seems that AI systems have come at the perfect time.

Pros And Cons To Consider:

The benefits of AI to the NHS were published by reform.uk in their Thinking on its own: AI in the NHS . This piece states: “AI could support the delivery of the NHS’s Five-Year Forward View… AI could help address the health and wellbeing gap by predicting which individuals or groups of individuals are at risk of illness and allow the NHS to target treatment more effectively towards them”.

However, it’s not as easy as it all sounds. The public is wary about how their data is used, especially the levels of personal information required. The NHS will need to improve its IT systems and collect the right type of data in the right format to harness the full potential of AI.

Interview Questions

AI may come up during your interview as ethics questions. Some example questions include:

  • Does AI pose a threat to privacy and confidentiality, informed consent, and patient autonomy?
  • Could the NHS benefit from further implementation of AI in Medicine? If so, how?

You can access over 100 more questions with our free Interview Question Bank.

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