But bringing AI into health care has its own set of challenges. Scientists are dealing with human behavior, and there is nothing more unpredictable than humans. Data fed into a program that’s seeking to find, say, triggers for migraine headaches, is often “fuzzy.” A computer simulation works with the data it’s given, so if the data isn’t clear, results may also be a bit fuzzy. Since DataRobot’s recent opening, and with its resulting partnership with West Virginia University, North Central West Virginia is poised to become a national research center that utilizes the power of AI to tackle the challenges of rural health care. “AI is already being used effectively to help treat many diseases, but there are still challenges,” Embrey said. “A key factor moving forward is not so much having enough data as it is connecting the data we have in a way that we can make sense of it. We live in a world of data overload, so it’s hard to make insights without technology to help spot patterns and insights.”
But, it’s humans who guide the intelligence by articulating how the data is used. In fact, we’re now seeing more of the term “augmented intelligence” rather than artificial intelligence. After all, there’s nothing artificial about the programmers, or coders, who write the models. They are brilliant people who set up the simulations and define the parameters. They get the system going and essentially say, “Now run with it.” Clearly, it’s the word “artificial” that throws people. It seems to say that results or predictions are somehow out of our hands as humans.
“What AI can do is allow people to do superhuman things by increasing an individual’s capabilities to process data and build predictive models,” Embrey said. “This is done by augmenting artificial intelligence and machine learning with human expertise. When done properly, the results are unique, data-driven insights. This is why we call it augmented intelligence. It makes humans greater and better at making data-driven decisions.” “The concept of artificial intelligence often raises concerns because there is a fear that it’s fake or will replace human thinking,” said Sally Embrey, vice president of public health and medical technologies at DataRobot, which recently opened an office in Morgantown. “But the truth is that AI can’t ever fully replace human decision-making.”
“Advanced computers are already performing monotonous, repetitive tasks by scanning volumes of data to find patterns and anomalies,” said Jonathan Manis, senior vice president and chief information officer of Christus Health, which is headquartered in San Antonio, Texas. “Artificial intelligence assists in the education, screening, triage and treatment of patients. We are only just now beginning to understand the potential of this powerful tool for the health and wellness industry.” As it stands, AI is useful for detecting anomalies that may indicate cancer or other diseases, but it’s not at the point where it can develop patient treatment plans. Scientists and clinicians will still be on the front lines of determining how to treat different illnesses and diseases. But patients will benefit from AI in other ways as well. In other words, humans. We’re just so fuzzy. And again, unpredictable. But, the good news is AI is finding its legs in health care.
“Watson was going to revolutionize medicine and everything else, but it really didn’t do it very well,” said Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president and executive dean for health sciences at WVU. “And the reason why is because some of the information you need, and some of the way you categorize it, and some of the outcomes that you measure, are fuzzier and therefore the models have a lot more trouble.” More than 20 years ago, IBM introduced Watson, the AI supercomputer that was going to change the world, including the field of health care. After Watson beat Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings, the future seemed clear. But things turned out differently.
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