Happy Fourth of July – a day we celebrate the birth of our nation. A day we recognize and applaud our country’s founders who were bold and progressive thinkers. A day to be grateful for the establishment of the United States and its founding principles which have weathered the test of time.
The path to revolution is one familiar to the pioneers of healthcare: slow to change, rife with internal disagreement and peppered by a number of fits and starts. If it sounds familiar, it should. The push for change and efficiency has been propelling new advancements in healthcare. Instead of throwing our tea overboard, biopharma innovators, health plan pioneers, progressive physicians, healthcare consumers and patient advocates are leading the charge to fulfill a revolutionary commitment to a new healthcare delivery system, and AI is a key tool in their repertoire.
AI is enabling the development of effective drugs to treat a wide range of common and rare diseases. Biopharma companies are devoting extensive resources to meet growing demands for increased drug efficacy in a cost-effective way. AI is helping these companies ingest and leverage the vast amounts of real-world EMR, claims, and genetic data to accelerate the discovery of what works for whom and why.
The increase in genetic testing and biomarker discovery is driving the growth of precision medicine that targets specific drugs and therapies that work for identified subpopulations. AI is critical in helping to unravel the complexity of biology that provides biopharma with insights to disease pathways that lead to more effective drug development.
AI is also driving the promise of in silico testing to generate reliable predictions and insight into the mode of action of drugs and underlying side effects. From the petri dish to the computer model, the revolutionary spark behind biopharma discoveries is continuing to burn brightly.
As we may recall from grammar school history lessons, a foundational cause of the American Revolution was the Boston Tea Party. While the story has become more legend than reality, the principle stands. Pricing and growing agitation among the colonists in the lack of representation and understanding of colonial practices led to a backlash from the citizens of the newly founded country. Healthcare consumers are demanding more as their costs continue to rise. To meet the need for optimizing patient interventions, health plans and managed care organizations have turned to AI for help making sense of the data they have been gathering for decades.
Tailoring solutions and plans for the “average” patient is no longer a viable approach, instead AI is being used to predict individual risk and determine the optimal time to provide the best care at the least cost. It also provides a view into how non-compliance affects disease trajectories, drug comparison and the results of delayed treatments.
Physicians can benefit from AI by supporting diagnostics or accelerating basic tests by identifying abnormalities that may otherwise be missed.
The power of AI in diagnosis was highlighted in a 2016 research project at Harvard. A team of pathologists created an AI-powered program to identify breast cancer cells. Pathologists alone accurately spotted breast cancer 96 percent of the time, more frequently than the algorithm which identified the cancer only 92 percent of the time. But combining the pathologists and the algorithm detected breast cancer 99.5 percent of the time. This improvement can have a significant impact since there are nearly 1.7 million new cases of breast cancer diagnosed every year.
So on this Independence Day, a reminder to be grateful to our country's founding fathers and mothers for creating this country we are fortunate to live in. An additional note of gratitude to the healthcare revolutionaries who are fighting each day to provide better healthcare for all. Happy 4th!
 The Algorithm Will See You Now: How AI is Helping Doctors Diagnose and Treat Patients, by Jackie Snow, PBS Nova, March 6, 2019.