As recently as a year ago, artificial intelligence was still an amorphous concept in medicine. Almost every major hospital was tinkering with it, but hype about algorithms replacing doctors — or curing cancer — was outrunning reality.
Now many hospitals are moving swiftly to incorporate the technology into daily practice, promising to harness patient data to improve certain aspects of care and make medical services cheaper and more efficient.
The uses vary widely — from algorithms that can detect the onset of life-threatening conditions, to virtual assistants that help patients adhere to dietary restrictions, to programs that predict how long patients will stay in the hospital and whether they will come back. Digital health specialists say artificial intelligence is nowhere close to curing the as-yet incurable, but they say it has reached an inflection point where its use is becoming practical and demonstrably beneficial.