How AI can transform the medical care system

April 29, 2019 09:57
AI-based methods have emerged as powerful tools to transform medical care. Photo: Reuters

Artificial Intelligence (AI) already outperforms junior pediatricians in diagnosing common child diseases, according to a study published by Nature Medicine.

The conclusion is quite reasonable. Young doctors need to spend years to accumulate experience, while machines can extract clinically relevant information from a massive number of cases quickly to achieve high diagnostic accuracy.

If AI is already better than a young doctor, it will only get even stronger in the future.

Meanwhile, in addition to diagnosis, AI-based methods have emerged as powerful tools to transform medical care. Using AI to prevent disease is one of the promising areas.

Hong Kong is struggling with an aging population. The government estimates that those aged above 65 will account for 31.3 percent of the city's total population by 2036, compared to 17.9 percent last year.

That means the city will have more than one million people above 65 in next 10 years or so. Given this, the government needs to step up efforts on disease prevention to ease burden on the medical care system.

It takes years of training to become a doctor. As AI advances further, will the jobs of the medical professionals be at risk?

Not really. What AI will do, actually, is shift some of the work load away and ease the burden on doctors.

For example, the government-subsidized Colorectal Cancer Screening Program has been regularized and will be extended to asymptomatic Hong Kong residents aged between 50 and 75 in phases.

The move is aimed at screening people who have high risk of developing colorectal cancer.

With AI, such screening work can be carried out by technicians rather than doctors.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 26

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Information Technology Federation Chairman