Artificial Intelligence Makes Waves in Healthcare

There’s so much more to artificial intelligence (AI) than what you’ve seen in sci-fi movies. In fact, advancements in machine learning could provide new opportunities for medical research and diagnosis.

Keith J. Dreyer, DO, PhD, Vice Chairman of Radiology and Executive Director of the MGH & BWH Center for Clinical Data Science, says AI and machine learning has the potential to impact health care as profoundly as the discovery of the microscope.

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Here are five things to know from a recent interview with Dreyer:

  1. AI is created through a process called machine learning. Unlike traditional computer programming where the process of moving from point A to point B is entirely mapped out by the programming team before being loaded onto the computer, in machine learning the computer is given a vast repository of data and told what the data indicates. The computer then has to identify the underlying logic that connects the data to the results. In creating this algorithm, it can predict answers when given new data in the future.
  2. Although the concept of using machines to create AI has been around for more than 50 years, faster computation speeds and more accurate algorithms are now enticing health care companies to invest in AI.
  3. Researchers have trained computers to develop algorithms that distinguish between millions of simple images such as dogs, cat, and beaches. For example, researchers will show a computer many different images of dogs and tell the computer, “these are dogs.” The computer will then have to develop an algorithm that can be used to identify dogs from a new set of images that includes dogs, cats, horses or anything at all.
  4. Now researchers are asking computers to apply that same knowledge to look at millions of MRI, CT, and X-ray images to detect things such as lung cancer, breast cancer or a hemorrhagic stroke. A computer could be shown millions of mammogram images from patients who subsequently developed a certain type of breast cancer. The goal would be to see if there is an underlying pattern that could lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment.
  5. Mass General is poised to be a leader in the field of AI. The hospital has incredibly large amounts of electronic data that can be used to develop new algorithms for screening and diagnosis. Mass General also has a vast community of clinicians and researchers who can work together to develop these tools and integrate them into the delivery of care.

You can read the full interview here.

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