By Farhia Rashid

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Medical artificial intelligence consists of using computer techniques to perform tasks that would otherwise be done by a human physician. AI has the ability of detecting meaningful relationships and correlations in a data set, and is increasingly being implemented into healthcare.

AI is different from other technology used in healthcare as it has the ability to gain information, process it, and give a well-defined output to the user. This is done through machine learning algorithms, which can recognise patterns in behaviour and create its own logic. There are 2 main ways in which the outcome differs when you use AI compared to using a human:

  • Algorithms are literal, and can only understand their instructions explicitly.

  • Although algorithms can make precise predictions, they are unable to give causes or explanations.

There are 3 main ways that AI is used currently in healthcare:- diagnosis, virtual nursing, and robotic surgery.


AI is currently being designed to diagnose conditions and diseases from scans. This has the potential to reshape healthcare. For examples, cancers would be able to be diagnosed at earlier stages, resulting in higher rates of survival. This may also result in less error as with a human physician, there is a higher probability of misdiagnosis or missing areas on the scan that point to an illness.

virtual nursing

Robots can be designed to monitor a patient’s health. For instance, wearable devices can measure heart rate, sleeping hours, etc. Nursing robots can also offer guidance to patients for taking their medications on time. An advantage of this is that patients are able to receive the advice they need from the comfort of their own homes, and without having to spend any time waiting.

robotic surgery

Robots have been developed to carry out surgeries. Research has shown that surgeries carried out by robots can have an 80% reduction in complications. One example of a surgical robot is the Da Vinci Surgical System. This allows patients to be operated on using a robotic apparatus. It means that the surgeon does not have to be in the same location as the patient, making surgical careers more international. It also minimises human error, as the programmed arm carries out the operation.

the future of ai in healthcare

Computational and pattern recognition tasks will be replaced by AI in the future. However there are psychological sides to conditions too: understanding the holistic human experience is important in the treatment of patients, so it is unlikely that all aspects of healthcare will be replaced by AI.