AI Makes Life-Saving Medical Advances

January 2, 2018

Too often we discuss the grey area around AI and machine learning. While that is incredibly important during this time, it is also not all this amazing technology can do. Saving lives, for instance. We learned a little more on that front from a recent Digital Journal story, “Algorithm Repairs Corrupted Digital Images.”

According to the story:

University of Maryland researchers have devised a technique exploits the power of artificial neural networks to tackle multiple types of flaws and degradations in a single image in one go.

The researchers achieved image correction through the use of a new algorithm. The algorithm operates artificial neural networks simultaneously, so that the networks apply a range of different fixes to corrupted digital images. The algorithm was tested on thousands of damage digital images, some with severe degradations. The algorithm was able to repair the damage and return each image to its original state.

The application of such technology crosses the business and consumer divide, taking in everything from everyday camera snapshots to lifesaving medical scans. The types of faults digital images can develop include blurriness, grainy noise, missing pixels and color corruption.

Very promising from a commercial and medical standpoint. Especially, the medical side. This news, coupled with the story in Forbes about AI disrupting healthcare norms in 2018 makes for a big promise. We are looking forward to seeing what the new year brings for medical AI.

Patrick Roland, January 2, 2018

Watson and CDC Research Blockchain

December 29, 2017

Oh, Watson!  What will IBM have you do next?  Apparently, you will team up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research blockchain benefits.  The details about Watson’s newest career are detailed in Fast Company’s article, “IBM Watson Health Team With the CDC To Research Blockchain.”  Teaming up with the CDC is an extension of the work IBM Watson is already doing with the Food and Drug Administration by exploring owned-mediated data exchange with blockchain.

IBM chief science officer Shahram Ebadollahi explained that the research with the CDC and FDA with lead to blockchain adoption at the federal government level.  By using blockchain, the CDC hopes to discover new ways to use data and expedite federal reactions to health threats.

Blockchain is a very new technology developed to handle sensitive data and cryptocurrency transactions.  It is used for applications that require high levels of security.  Ebadollahi said:

 ‘Blockchain is very useful when there are so many actors in the system,’ Ebadollahi said. ‘It enables the ecosystem of data in healthcare to have more fluidity, and AI allows us to extract insights from the data. Everybody talks about Big Data in healthcare but I think the more important thing is Long Data.’

One possible result is that consumers will purchase a personal health care system like a home security system.  Blockchain could potentially offer a new level of security that everyone from patients to physicians is comfortable with.

Blockchain is basically big data, except it is a more specific data type.  The applications are the same and it will revolutionize the world just like big data.

Whitney Grace, December 29, 2017

Humans Living Longer but Life Quality Suffers

December 28, 2017

Here is an article that offers some thoughts worth pondering.  The Daily Herald published, “Study: Americans Are Retiring Later, Dying Sooner And Sicker In Between”.  It takes a look at how Americans are forced to retire at later ages than their parents because the retirement age keeps getting pushed up.  Since retirement is being put off, it allows people to ideally store away more finances for their eventual retirement.  The problem, however, is that retirees are not able to enjoy themselves in their golden years, instead, they are forced to continue working in some capacity or deal with health problems.

Despite being one of the world’s richest countries and having some of the best healthcare, Americans’ health has deteriorated in the past decade.  Here are some neighbors to make you cringe:

University of Michigan economists HwaJung Choi and Robert Schoeni used survey data to compare middle-age Americans’ health. A key measure is whether people have trouble with an “activity of daily living,” or ADL, such as walking across a room, dressing and bathing themselves, eating, or getting in or out of bed. The study showed the number of middle-age Americans with ADL limitations has jumped: 12.5 percent of Americans at the current retirement age of 66 had an ADL limitation in their late 50s, up from 8.8 percent for people with a retirement age of 65.

Also, Americans’ brains are rotting with an 11 percent increase in dementia and other cognitive declines in people from 58-60 years old.  Researchers are not quite sure what is causing the decline in health, but they, of course, have a lot of speculation.  These include alcohol abuse, suicide, drug overdoses, and, the current favorite, increased obesity.

The real answer is multiple factors, such as genes, lifestyle, stress, environment, and diet.  All of these things come into play.  Despite poor health quality, we can count on more medical technological advances in the future.  The aging population maybe the test grounds and improve the golden years of their grandchildren.

Whitney Grace, December 28, 2017

Silicon Valley Has the Secret to Eternal Life

December 27, 2017

Walt Disney envisioned his namesake park, Walt Disney World, to be a blueprint for the city of the future.  Disney was a keen futurist and was interested in new technology that could improve his studios and theme parks.  His futuristic tendencies led to the urban legend that he was cryogenically frozen and will one day be revived.  Disney wasn’t put on the ice, but his futuristic visions are carried out by Silicon Valley technologists seeking immortality.  Quartz reports on the key to eternal life in the article, “Seeking Eternal Life, Silicon Valley Is Solving For Death.”

Death is the ultimate problem that has yet to be solved.  Many in Silicon Valley, including Oracle’s Larry Ellison, are searching for a solution to prolong life with anti-aging research.  Bill Maris convinced Alphabet’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin to start Calico, Google’s billion-dollar effort to cure aging.  Also, cryogenics remains popular:

Other denizens of the valley pursue cryogenics or cryonics, which is the process of freezing oneself in a vat of liquid nitrogen soon after death. They do this in the hope that it will suspend them in time, preserving them for a future when science can bring them back to life. There are about 350 people already frozen worldwide with another 2,000 signed up—but yet to die.

Medical breakthroughs have already extended the US lifespan and that of other developed nations.  Developing nations still have short lifespans and it draws the conclusion that wealthier people will live forever, while the poor ie quicker.  It is questionable that the extra years tacked onto people’s lives are really worth it because many people spend them unable to care for themselves or in pain.

The article spins into current anti-aging research, then into philosophy about humans vs. machines and what makes a person a person.  Throw in some science-fiction and that is the article in short.

Whitney Grace, December 27, 2017

Search System from UAEU Simplifies Life Science Research

December 21, 2017

Help is on hand for scientific researchers tired of being bogged down in databases in the form of a new platform called Biocarian. The Middle East’s ITP.net reports, “UAEU Develops New Search Engine for Life Sciences.” Semantic search is the key to the more efficient and user-friendly process. Writer Mark Sutton reports:

The UAEU [United Arab Emirages University] team said that Biocarian was developed to address the problem of large and complex data bases for healthcare and life science, which can result in researchers spending more than a third of their time searching for data. The new search engine users Semantic Web technology, so that researchers can easily create targeted searches to find the data they need in a more efficient fashion. … It allows complex queries to be constructed and entered, and offers additional features such as the capacity to enter ‘facet values’ according to specific criteria. These allow users to explore collated information by applying a range of filters, helping them to find what they are looking for quicker.

Project lead Nazar Zaki expects that simplifying the search process will open up this data to many talented researchers (who don’t happen to also be computer-science experts), leading to significant advances in medicine and healthcare. See the article for on the Biocarian platform.

Cynthia Murrell, December 21, 2017

Watson Works with AMA, Cerner to Create Health Data Model

December 1, 2017

We see IBM Watson is doing the partner thing again, this time with the American Medical Association (AMA). I guess they were not satisfied with blockchain applications and the i2 line of business after all. Forbes reports, “AMA Partners With IBM Watson, Cerner on Health Data Model.” Contributor Bruce Japsen cites James Madera of the AMA when he reports that though the organization has been collecting a lot of valuable clinical data, it has not yet been able to make the most of it. Of the new project, we learn:

The AMA’s ‘Integrated Health Model Initiative’ is designed to create a ‘shared framework for organizing health data , emphasizing patient-centric information and refining data elements to those most predictive of achieving better outcomes.’ Those already involved in the effort include IBM, Cerner, Intermountain Healthcare, the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Medical Informatics Association. The initiative is open to all healthcare and information stakeholders and there are no licensing fees for participants or potential users of what is eventually created. Madara described the AMA’s role as being like that of Switzerland: working to tell companies like Cerner and IBM what data elements are important and encouraging best practices, particularly when patient care and clinical information is involved. The AMA, for example, would provide ‘clinical validation review to make sure there is an evidence base under it because we don’t want junk,’ Madara said.

IBM and Cerner each have their own healthcare platforms, of course, but each is happy to work with the AMA. Japsen notes that as the healthcare industry shifts from the fee-for-service approach to value-based pricing models, accurate and complete information become more crucial than ever.

Cynthia Murrell, December 1, 2017

Consumer Health Search: An Angle for an Amazon Black Friday Sale?

November 24, 2017

I read “How Consumers Search for Health Care.” What struck me as interesting about this article’s information was that the data reminded me of research conducted i 1986 by the one time commercial online giant Information Access, a unit of Ziff Communications. We developed the Health Reference Center, which was an innovative service at that time. A kiosk allowed a user to obtain curated information about a medical condition. I recall we placed these Health Reference Centers in libraries and a handful of forward thinking health care facilities. We did tons of research, and the product included a number of interesting features.

I matched the findings reported in the article with my recollection of some of the research we conducted as part of the IAC product development process. One finding which was decidedly different was the preference for millennials for convenience. If the data in the article are accurate, 40 percent of the millennials in the sample like convenience which translates to mobile usage and online scheduling.

Other data points were in line with the findings from three decades ago; for example, ease of use and finding solutions that would be covered by insurance companies.

What do these data suggest? Health care is unlikely to be able to deal with expectations for mobile scheduling and patient convenience. As for shopping around for a deal on a treatment or procedure, Amazon, not established health care providers, may be encouraged to enter the field.

Black Friday deals on nose jobs and hip replacements may sound interesting to the Bezos behemoth. Use an Amazon credit card? One might get some Amazon credits which might be applied to the next procedure. Prime cut?

Stephen E Arnold, November 24, 2017

Healthcare Analytics Projected to Explode

November 21, 2017

There are many factors influencing the growing demand for healthcare analytics: pressure to lower healthcare costs, demand for more personalized treatment, the emergence of advanced analytic technology, and impact of social media.  PR Newswire takes a look at how the market is expected to explode in the article, “Healthcare Analytics Market To Grow At 25.3% CAGR From 2013 To 2024: Million Insights.”  Other important factors that influence healthcare costs are errors in medical products, workflow shortcomings, and, possibly the biggest, having cost-effective measures without compromising care.

Analytics are supposed to be able to help and/or influence all of these issues:

Based on the component, the global healthcare analytics market is segmented into services, software, and hardware. Services segment held a lucrative share in 2016 and is anticipated to grow steady rate during the forecast period. The service segment was dominated by the outsourcing of data services. Outsourcing of big data services saves time and is cost effective. Moreover, Outsourcing also enables access to skilled staff thereby eliminating the requirement of training of staff.

The cloud-based delivery is anticipated to grow and be the most widespread analytics platform for healthcare.  It allows remote access, avoids complicated infrastructures, and has real-time data tracking.  Adopting analytics platforms help curb the rising problems from cost to workforce to treatment the healthcare industry faces and will deal with in the future.  While these systems are being implemented, the harder part is determining how readily workers will be correctly trained on using them.

Whitney Grace, November 21, 2017

Is This the End of the Middleman?

September 20, 2017

The introduction of the internet began to reduce the need for professional intermediaries back in the 1990s, but that trend has accelerated with today’s AI capabilities. The Korea Times examines the matter in, “AI Invigorates ‘Scissors Economy’.”  The term “scissors economy” harkens back to 1999’s Market Shock by Todd Buchholz, in which that author coined the phrase to describe the shrinking reliance on go-betweens prompted by online technologies.

Some of the businesses that have been affected by these changing circumstances included brick-and-mortar stores, travel agents, stockbrokers, and insurance agents. It should come as no surprise– technologies that give consumers more direct control necessarily abridge nearly any transaction, cutting out professional intercessors. Writer Yoon Sung-won observes:

Expectations are that the phenomenon of the scissors economy will gain more strength as industries expedite introducing AI technologies in actual businesses. For instance, financial institutions such as banks, brokerage houses and insurance companies have started to use AI-based technologies not just to recommend optimal financial products to their clients but also to make decisions such as whom to grant loans to and where to invest. In the process, less and less human intervention is needed. Online shopping malls are also rushing to adopt new type of services, also based on AI technologies. Upon the customers’ agreement, online shopping platform operators collect information on their preferences to recommend products for customers to purchase. Internet and gaming service providers also use AI technologies to analyze their users to understand consumption patterns. Advanced medical institutions such as cancer centers are also tapping into AI technologies. In Korea, multiple hospitals including Gachon University Gil Medical Center have introduced IBM’s Watson AI system to give medical advice.

Yoon cites an “industry source” when noting that not many workers have been directly replaced by AI systems yet, but that it is only a matter of time. We’re also cautioned—maybe those humans-in-the-middle are actually beneficial. What world will we create when we hand as much decision-making to algorithms as possible?

Cynthia Murrell, September 20, 2017

Alexa Gets a Physical Body

September 20, 2017

Alexa did not really get physical robot body, instead, Bionik Laboratories developed an Alexa skill to control their AKRE lower-body exoskeleton.  The news comes from iReviews’s article, “Amazon’s Alexa Can Control An Exoskeleton With Verbal Instructions.”

This is the first time Alexa has ever been connected to an exoskeleton and it could potentially lead to amazing breakthroughs in prosthetics.  Bionik Laboratories developed the exoskeleton to help older people and those with lower body impairments.  Users can activate the exoskeleton through Alexa with simple commands like, “I’m ready to stand” or “I’m ready to walk.”

As the population ages, there will be a higher demand for technology that can help senior citizens move around with more ease.

The ARKE exoskeleton has the potential to help in 100% of all stroke survivors who suffer from lower limb impairment. A portion of wheelchair-bound stroke survivors will be eligible for the exoskeleton. For spinal cord injury patients, Bionik Labs expects to treat 80% of all cases with the ARKE exoskeleton. There is also potential for patients with quadriplegia or incomplete spinal cord injury.

Bionik Laboratories plans to help people regain their mobility and improve their quality of life.  The company is focusing on stroke survivors and other mobile-impaired patients.  Pairing the exoskeleton with Alexa demonstrates the potential home healthcare will have in the future.  It will also feed imaginations as they wonder if the exoskeletons can be programmed not only walk and run but search and kill?  Just a joke, but the potential for aiding impaired people is amazing.

Whitney Grace, September 20, 2015

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