The potential growth of telemedicine in the world was a watershed for the medical industry during the Covid-19 pandemic. With data from Forrester Research, by the end of 2020 there were 1 billion telemedicine appointments in the United States alone. Its rise as an alternative to face-to-face consultations was a remarkable change for many people’s reality.
Computer scientists have long promised that artificial intelligence (AI) could make healthcare work easier, and ultimately improve the experience for patients. However, the IBM company specified that artificial intelligence will not transform health care for another decade.
“Within the world of technology, progress tends to happen slowly and then quickly,” said Andrew Ng, founder of Google Brain and head of Baidu, who also assured that the technology industry is still in the process of improving the development of health care.
There are still some doubts about the implementation of AI in telemedicine, for example, medical practitioners have had to adapt to this new pace for healthcare and learn new skills. “When using telemedicine, it is crucial that professionals pay close attention to a patient’s facial expressions or nuances,” Ng explained.
Also, some companies, such as Nuance AI, acquired by Microsoft, are developing tools capable of writing prescriptions, but so far the technology is only a transcription service. This is due to the technology gap that prevents real benefit from this operating system to reduce the workload of doctors.
Healthcare is a high-risk business, when there are errors in medicine, a missed diagnosis, a mismanaged medicine, people can die. Given this, Ng highlights that there are multiple barriers to getting AI to work within health care, since algorithms must be better and they need to precisely address diseases.
There are still doubts and concerns about its effectiveness, cost and accessibility, low-income patients or people who are not familiar with the technology are often excluded from telemedicine. In addition, other branches of medicine are for now impossible to adapt to telemedicine, for example, otorhinolaryngology. There, health professionals must make a thorough evaluation of the inside of the patient’s ears or nose.
While telemedicine can likely become an alternative for healthcare, you now need to focus on optimizing tools like artificial intelligence to improve service. In the future, possibly patients will be able to benefit and find alternatives not only in consultations, but clinical analyzes, emergencies or provide medical follow-up to patients.