Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Medical Devices
Much has been written about artificial intelligence (“AI”) being used in the world of healthcare.
It is at the crossroads of AI and medical technology that intelligent medical devices can be found.
As we mentioned earlier, intelligent medical devices function via a feedback loop in which data is collected and a decision is made by the device without any human interaction.
For now, we’ll use a smart watch that alerts the physician when an anomaly in a patient’s heartrate is detected as an example.
However, it is only one step removed from a branch of AI known as machine learning (“ML”).
AI pioneer Nils J. Nilsson describes ML as follows:
“As regards machines, we might say, very broadly, that a machine learns whenever it changes its structure, program, or data (based on its inputs or in response to external information) in such a manner that its expected future performance improves.”
For an intelligent medical device to fall under the umbrella of ML (an transitively, AI), it must have a mechanism for learning—it must be able to improve itself based on data it (or connected devices like it) collects.
So, if an intelligent medical device were to use the data it collects to improve its algorithm—its feedback loop—it could be considered an ML device.
Let’s return to the hypothetical smart watch mentioned earlier.
Assume the watch is initially programmed to alert the physician when a patient’s heartrate increases or decreases by a certain amount.
Next, imagine that whenever the physician receives an alert she/he can log into an app and click a button to let the device know if the alert was warranted.
Now, picture the device using the physician’s input to improve its algorithm so that it is more or less likely to alert the physician next time a similar event occurs.
The device has now learned.
Though it is still early in the age of AI, medical devices and technology companies alike are working to improve patient outcomes with the use of ML and “intelligent” feedback loops.