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Can Doctors Become a Computer Program in the Future? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Representational image. (Reuters)

Washington, London – A doctor may soon become a computer program following the outstanding achievements made by the Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the medical field. Many of Silicon Valley’s giants along with startups show great interest to invest in this field.

Frost & Sullivan, specialized in artificial intelligence, expects the sums that will be invested in this sector to reach $6.6 billion in 2021, although, investments in 2014 didn’t exceed $634 million. The new techniques can diagnose and detect diseases at an early stage and reduce health spending. They are being developed mainly on smartphones and internet-linked devices.

Cardiogram, a startup in the field, assures that the application it has developed can detect an abnormal heartbeat through a wearable smart watch. The sensors connected to the watch are able to distinguish the normal heart rhythm from atrial fibrillation, which is a type of cardiac arrhythmia that may be recognized by patients.

Another example: researchers from Harvard and the University of Vermont have created a device that can identify people suffering from depression by analyzing the photos they share on Instagram.

Researchers, who used data from more than 43,000 photos, said photos of depressed people tend more to be blue, gray or dark in color. They asserted that their results were more accurate than the traditional diagnosis made by general practitioners.

Technology has always had a share in medicine, but it reached a turning point in 2015, when Apple Inc. launched its “Research Kit” app, which enables iPhone’s users to collect data, including the distance they walk, and their heart rate that can serve them to assess their health status.

Forrester analyst Kate McCarthy said the advances accomplished in AI have opened new possibilities for “personal medicine” and allowed research to advance faster.

According to Narges Razavian, an NYU professor, who conducted a study on predictive analysis of more than 100 conditions, AI can also prevent many diseases by providing analyses of medical records and tests.

Razavian said: “Our job is to try to predict diseases from which an individual may suffer within six months, so we can take the necessary steps on time.”

The team developed mathematical equations that allow to accurately detect specific diseases, including type 2 diabetes or heart failure.

Another Silicon Valley giant, Google Inc. also seems interested in AI in medicine, mainly through the “DeepMind” department, which uses AI to help doctors assess the risks of cancer spread and determine the suitable radiation therapy.

Microsoft, IBM and Intel also collaborate with researchers in the analysis of medical data.

The CB Insights reported that 106 healthcare startups are working in the AI medicine sector in 2017.

Artificial intelligence can also help predict depression and other psychological disorders. According to researcher Jessica Ribeiro of the University of Florida, AI can predict by 80-90 percent if an individual is at risk of committing suicide within two years.