Artificial Intelligence and Disease Diagnosis

Artificial intelligence is found in every aspect of daily life, including the diagnosis and treatment of multiple pathologies. How does it work?
Artificial Intelligence and Disease Diagnosis
Leonardo Biolatto

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 27 September, 2022

Disease diagnosis has always been performed by trained health personnel. However, technological programs have advanced in recent years and can serve as a support. We’ll delve a little deeper into artificial intelligence and disease diagnosis in this article.

Artificial intelligence and medicine have been linked for many years. In fact, multiple studies have established that these types of programs can be used in almost all fields of human health. However, their specific use in diagnosing diseases hasn’t yet been fully explored.

A group of experts from Birmingham, in the UK, concluded that artificial intelligence could be applied in disease diagnosis. In fact, it’s believed that it could surpass humans in identifying certain pathologies.

What is artificial intelligence?

First of all, we need to define artificial intelligence or AI. In simple terms, AI is a set of algorithms that attempt to replicate the cognitive capabilities of human beings. Although it seems like a distant technology, we use it every day without even noticing it.

Common functions, such as facial unlocking on cell phones or voice assistants, are thanks to AI. This technology is also applied in agriculture, transportation, education and finance.

In the medical field, there are chatbots that automatically ask for symptoms to diagnose pathologies. In this way, it’s possible to know if you are suffering from a common disease, such as pneumonia.

Artificial intelligence.
AI can be simple, involved in everyday applications for unlocking a phone, for example. But it can also be complex and analyze huge amounts of data.

What is deep learning?

Today there are many different forms of artificial intelligence. The most widely used in the diagnosis of diseases is deep learning.

This is simply a branch of machine learning, which allows machines to learn automatically without the need for programming. In this sense, the systems will be able to interpret a series of data to make predictions.

With deep learning, computers learn by themselves. This is achieved through the recognition of multiple patterns.

The main feature is the use of a system of artificial neurons of different levels. In simple terms, the program understands a given piece of data at the initial level. It then passes it to a higher level, where it’s combined with other data to produce more complex information.

Can artificial intelligence diagnose diseases?

Now that the concepts of AI and deep learning are a little clearer, we can explain in more detail the role of artificial intelligence in the diagnosis of diseases. Recently, the first literature review on the subject was published in the journal The Lancet Digital Health.

The research was conducted at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust. The participants reviewed nearly 20,500 articles, although less than 1% met the inclusion criteria. Nevertheless, they were able to conclude that AI was able to detect pathologies as accurately as humans.

The diseases diagnosed with AI ranged from cancers to eye problems. The experts analyzed a total of 14 studies, through which they determined that AI diagnosed disease in 87% of cases. This would outperform medical personnel, who were at a sensitivity rate of 86%.

The technology was able to identify a healthy person in 93% of cases. Healthcare personnel were also outperformed in this aspect, reaching only 91%.

Other studies on AI and health

The number of studies involving artificial intelligence in the diagnosis of diseases has grown exponentially in recent years. In fact, it was even implemented in the diagnosis and treatment of emerging pathologies, such as COVID-19.

A study published in International Journal of Biological Sciences showed that AI was used in image analysis for the diagnosis of COVID-19. This accelerated the process and expedited patient care in the midst of the pandemic.

On the other hand, an article in the journal Current Oncology found that AI is used in the diagnosis of several types of cancer. In fact, artificial intelligence-assisted screening techniques for colorectal cancer represent a crucial step in decreasing the incidence of the neoplasm.

Cardiology has also benefited from AI. This technology has become a fundamental tool for the diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases. This is because it analyzes an echocardiogram more accurately, for example.

Artificial intelligence and disease diagnosis.
AI is faster at reading images, thus speeding up diagnostic processes.

A technology that still needs to be perfected

The results of the first literature review and other studies on the application of artificial intelligence in disease diagnosis are promising. However, this is a recent technology that needs to be perfected to reduce the probability of errors and biases.

In turn, the absence of verified and reliable studies on the application of this technology hinders its progress. In this regard, we need to wait a few years and see how scientific findings evolve before AI can be used in any healthcare center in the world.

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