"Meet my assistant, an ML-based system" or why we use Computer-Aided Systems in Healthcare
Healthcare companies — be it providers or payers — have historically relied on computers for administrative tasks. However, as technology matured and the industry digitized, new use cases have emerged. Today, hardly any clinic operates without a fleet of computers to store and manage patient/facility data, monitor patients and equipment, perform operations, and do research.
The advance of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) has brought about new changes to a firmly established healthcare system, which, nonetheless, suffers from rising costs, low productivity, and inefficient care delivery. Implementing AI healthcare solutions can be challenging, but they have the potential to increase diagnosis efficiency, cut triage and patient treatment time, reduce unnecessary hospital visits, create administrative time savings, and drastically improve clinical decision-making.
In this article, we will talk about computer-aided systems and look into specific AI-powered solutions that help physicians and administrative personnel drive efficiencies in healthcare.
What Is a Computer-Aided System?
In healthcare, a computer-aided system is an integrative solution that assists doctors by partially automating their tasks or augmenting clinical support and decision-making.
Despite the term, these systems do not operate by just using a computer, but are designed and built around such technologies as AI, machine learning, and deep learning.
Below are four areas (and a few use cases), in which computer-aided systems and AI solutions are applied today. Further, we will talk in detail about some of them.
Computer-Aided Solutions in Healthcare: approaches and software types
#1 CADe/CADx Systems
Computer-aided detection (CADe), also known as computer-aided diagnosis (CADx), are medical systems that help doctors interpret a wide range of medical images, including MRIs, X-rays, CTs, PETs, ultrasound images, and more.
CADe systems detect and characterize pathology, such as tumors, lesions, and polyps, in various tissues, and they are mostly applied in mammography, ultrasound imaging, magnetic resonance imaging, computer tomography, and tomosynthesis.
The idea of CADe is simple:
Because computer output, which is based on accurate and consistent diagnosis, is provided to doctors automatically, they can read images faster and more effectively. This not only scales medical imaging, but drastically improves its affordability.
CADe systems demonstrate high diagnosis accuracy and impeccable efficiency since they take advantage of advanced radiology techniques (image analysis & processing) and augment them with computer vision and anomaly detection algorithms.
In this ecosystem, every image is pre-processed, then its features get extracted and classified, and finally the results are provided to a doctor for review. To ensure accuracy, the algorithms are trained on large, representative datasets, and the results are verified by trained physicians. Often, human in the loop (HITL) is an integral part of computer-aided diagnosis solutions.
CADe systems must be approved by the FDA.
#2 Computer-Aided Prognosis Systems
Computer-aided prognosis (CAP) is a sub-field of computer-aided diagnosis that combines medical image analysis and patient data analysis to help doctors predict disease outcome and patient survival.
The concept of CAP is two-fold:
It enables physicians to effectively fuse all sources of data about a patient like EHRs, medical images, tissue samples, and genome data (if available) to make it easier to analyze these heterogeneous data sources to predict and improve outcomes
More insight into patient data means that doctors can potentially determine the probability of an individual contracting certain diseases and responding to a specific treatment regimen
CAP systems include such components as image analysis technology, AI “brain” (i.e. ML/DL algorithms for anomaly detection and classification), data storage, and advanced analytics. These systems are a result of cooperation between computer and imaging scientists, clinicians, oncologists, radiologists, and pathologists.
As of now, computer-aided prognosis systems are more about theory than practice. The challenges of implementation range from lack of quality data and professionals with right skill sets to privacy, security, and ethical concerns. And yet, companies have been exploring the capabilities of CAP systems for breast cancer treatment, lung cancer treatment, spinal cord injury prediction, and cell death categorization.
#3 Clinical Support Systems
Computer-aided clinical support systems are a wide range of automated solutions to help healthcare professionals in the delivery of patient care. In most cases, these solutions augment clinical support staff through more efficient data entry, patient records handling, financial reports preparation, triage, etc.
Given the description, clinical support systems are often part of larger-scale AI solutions. For instance, data conversion solutions always have a data entry component — scanned documents are prepared for processing before data is extracted, converted, and pushed for analysis. Or, they can complement hospital information systems (HIS) by giving symptom checkers easy and instant access to patient data, to increase the accuracy of triage advice.
Note: Do not confuse clinical support systems with clinical decision support systems (CDSS). The first are management tools for healthcare assistants used in routine aspects of care delivery while the latter are software-based AI tools for better decision-making.
#4 Healthcare Facility Management Systems
Computer-aided facility management systems are quickly becoming a go-to solution in the medical field as a means to improve maintenance, increase performance, reduce risk, and cut costs.
Facility management solutions have a lot in common with hospital information systems (HIS), and they are used as the interface where all the data about all aspects of a facility activities are displayed. The main difference is that computer-aided facility management systems feature an AI-enabled decision-support component, to help staff look into core factors that affect the delivery of healthcare facility-wise. For example, such factors as facility age, occupancy, energy consumption, and maintenance costs can be analyzed for insights.
Alternatively, healthcare facility management systems can help medical personnel stay in sync and work more efficiently. For instance, a study by the KPI Institute found that the ideal hospital bed occupancy rate is 85-90%. Any rate higher than 90% may cause overcrowding, forcing hospitals to turn away patients and postpone the provision of care. With all the data stored in the system, doctors, symptom checkers, and clinical support workers can regulate how many patients they can admit to treat effectively.
#5 Computer-Assisted History Taking Systems
According to Statista, about 33% of US physicians spend 17-24 minutes with their patients.
In the meantime, history taking and examination can take up to 22 minutes for a patient.
A computer-assisted history-taking system (CAHTS) can help doctors gather data from patients much faster, drastically reducing the time from admission to diagnosis to treatment plan.
Systems as such are powered by speech recognition and Natural Language Processing (NLP). They take a doctor-to-patient conversation as an input, process and analyze it using algorithms, and then display it for a doctor review in digital form. Alternatively, doctors can simply dictate their notes to store in HIS or update EHRs.
Overall, medical transcription (along with CAD) is one of the most high-potential applications of AI and machine learning in healthcare. The medical transcription market is projected to reach more than $70 billion by 2026, just because the technology offers such significant advantages as time and cost savings, more effective data gathering, and more fast and efficient care delivery.
Let's pass to the actual solutions
VITech Lab Healthcare has designed and built a range of intelligent solutions for healthcare, including computer-aided diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy and computer-assisted pneumonia diagnosis.
Computer-aided disease screening and diagnosis systems are a new frontier for ophthalmology. By using AI and machine learning, medical providers make it easy for eye doctors to detect and diagnose various conditions, at high speed and at scale. Eventually, they seek to scale doctors’ expertise and make screening more effective and affordable.
Diabetic retinopathy is one of many conditions that can be easily prevented if diagnosed and treated in time. Though it is the leading cause of blindness in adults, it is often misdiagnosed due to lack of trained ophthalmologists. It is critical to free up doctors with expertise from routine tasks like time-consuming review of eye screens through automation.
The CADx solution for diabetic retinopathy diagnosis utilizes anomaly detection and image analysis to automate and scale the detection of subtle morphological changes in the fundus of the eye. Since “healthy” screens are sifted out by the system, ophthalmologists get more time to look into cases with first signs of damage to optic disk, exudates, and blood vessels. They can diagnose more accurately and efficiently to prevent lifelong blindness at scale.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare systems globally have to operate over their capacity. Doctors and medical personnel are overworked and overstressed, and they can neither diagnose nor treat patients as fast as the disease progresses. They want to be able to diagnose faster to focus on patients who need help.
The VITech Lab Detector for COVID-19 and other lung diseases helps doctors speed up the diagnosis procedure. Powered by machine learning, the solution classifies and identifies various respiratory diseases, including pneumotorax, pneumonia, bacterial pneumonia, viral pneumonia, and COVID-19 by analyzing medical images and DICOM files. It also evaluates the probability of each detected disease in %.
Easily integrated with CT or MRT, the solution can process dozens of thousands of medical images per day, to identify the most severe cases for medical professionals to address first. Because doctors spend less time on diagnostics, they can focus on decision-making and treatment of patients.
Computers are no longer machines that medical staff use just to handle patient and facility data. Today, they encompass the widest range of use cases, from EHR handling to AI-based decision-making.
Computer-aided systems have been transforming the US healthcare system for no less than a few decades, but only with the advance of artificial intelligence and machine learning they have propelled a revolution in how providers deliver care, manage their facilities and staff, and make healthcare more efficient cost- and resource-wise.
At VITech Lab, we design and build AI healthcare solutions to help both businesses and patients take advantage of the novel technologies. We strive for efficiency, effectiveness, and affordability, aiming to renovate healthcare and address such global challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic.
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