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The beginner’s guide to AI in healthcare

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, has a vital role to play in all our futures, that’s why we thought we’d clarify its meaning and, specifically, its role in healthcare. If you understand the basics of AI, feel free to skip this guide and explore Babylon’s AI in more detail here.

First things first...what is AI?

AI is a technology built by humans that enables machines to learn how to perform tasks that require intelligent actions and decisions. AI systems discover how to make these choices by learning patterns from data, or the environment.

How is AI affecting us today?

From the way we live to the way we work, AI is affecting us in so many ways. Sometimes, without us even realising it. A lot of devices and daily activities rely on AI. For example, phones, video games and your online shopping try to understand what you’re saying, choose what to show you next or provide a service before you ask.

How are we using AI in healthcare?

Our suite of AI tools have been designed to replicate some of the things a doctor does in order to provide accessible healthcare for millions. Together, these AI tools (known as models) use existing medical knowledge and anonymised, aggregated and consented health data to form a type of digital medical encyclopaedia to understand illnesses, symptoms and drugs and how they match up. They also have the ability to add information from medical datasets and understand our clinicians’ consultation notes. All of this results in a vast amount of data that the AI can learn from. The AI system can use this data, combined with a patient’s medical history, to process millions of calculations per second and rapidly help reason and make decisions about whether they need to see a doctor, the likely causes of symptoms and future predictions of health.

Is AI replacing our healthcare professionals?

No. It’s empowering them to focus on what they do best. The AI saves clinicians time by looking after the patients who need information, but don’t need a consultation. At the same time the AI is becoming a tool for clinicians to help them make better decisions based on more accurate information.

Isn’t the traditional health system good enough?

The traditional ways of accessing healthcare will always matter – there are often times when patients need to meet with their doctors in-person. But global healthcare services are becoming overstretched and harder to access, and we have to deal with unforeseen events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, so we also need to look to AI for solutions.