AI 'Doctor' System Better Than Human

Researchers at Indiana University have demonstrated an artificially intelligent computer system that can improve both the cost and the quality of medical care. In a recent study, it was demonstrated that the computer system improved patient outcome while lowering per patient cost from an average of $497 to just $189.

Using an artificial intelligence framework combining Markov Decision Processes and Dynamic Decision Networks, IU School of Informatics and Computing researchers Casey Bennett and Kris Hauser show how simulation modeling that understands and predicts the outcomes of treatment could reduce health care costs by over 50 percent while also improving patient outcomes by nearly 50 percent...

By using a new framework that employs sequential decision-making, the previous single-decision research can be expanded into models that simulate numerous alternative treatment paths out into the future; maintain beliefs about patient health status over time even when measurements are unavailable or uncertain; and continually plan/re-plan as new information becomes available. In other words, it can "think like a doctor." "The Markov Decision Processes and Dynamic Decision Networks enable the system to deliberate about the future, considering all the different possible sequences of actions and effects in advance, even in cases where we are unsure of the effects," Bennett said.

Moreover, the approach is non-disease-specific -- it could work for any diagnosis or disorder, simply by plugging in the relevant information.

Using 500 randomly selected patients from that group for simulations, the two compared actual doctor performance and patient outcomes against sequential decision-making models, all using real patient data. They found great disparity in the cost per unit of outcome change when the artificial intelligence model's cost of $189 was compared to the treatment-as-usual cost of $497.

"This was at the same time that the AI approach obtained a 30 to 35 percent increase in patient outcomes," Bennett said. "And we determined that tweaking certain model parameters could enhance the outcome advantage to about 50 percent more improvement at about half the cost."

SF fans may be thinking of The Doctor, the Emergency Medical Hologram from Star Trek Voyager. The EMH is a computer program that treats patients when medical help is otherwise unavailable.

(Star Trek Voyager Emergency Medical Hologram)

There are older examples, of course. Consider the autodoc from Larry Niven's 1970 novel Ringworld, which treats as well as it examines and diagnoses.

It's a bit more limited, but the electronic body analyzer from Michael Crichton's 1969 novel The Andromeda Strain does a pretty good job with a physical exam.

And don't forget about the robot surgeon from Isaac Asimov's 1976 novel The Bicentennial Man.

Via Indiana University.

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