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  • Writer's pictureIrma Rastegayeva

Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare and Beyond: Year-in-Review and What to Expect in 2019

Updated: Oct 24, 2020

This article was originally published on January 14, 2019

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10.” Bill Gates

When it comes to Artificial Intelligence (AI), it is hard to overestimate the amount of change that is already or nearly upon us. AI is ushering in the new era of transformation and rapid growth across every industry. Claims range from futuristic predictions that AI will make absolutely everything in our lives easier to fear-inducing proclamations that AI will take away millions of jobs and lead to ruin. Let’s dive into the current state of this technology and separate fact from fiction.

A (Very) Brief History of AI

The term Artificial Intelligence was first coined in the late 1950s. This technology makes it possible for computers and machines to recognize patterns in and learn from data and experience to automate variety of tasks across industries, delivering business benefits. The hallmark of AI is that it can learn autonomously -- in other words, on its own. But AI relies heavily on related technologies of Machine Learning (ML), Deep Learning (DL) and Natural Language Processing (NLP).

What is interesting about AI, and perhaps a reflection of evolving nature of this technology, is that the scope of Artificial Intelligence keeps shifting. For example, optical character recognition used to be considered AI, but now that it has become ubiquitous and routine, it’s no longer under the AI umbrella. In 1980, it was said that “AI is whatever hasn’t been done yet.”

Many definitions of AI exist, with most of them converging on “Artificial” and differing slightly on “Intelligence”. There are also several terms that are often used interchangeably with AI, for example Machine Learning.

Rise of AI in Healthcare

Artificial Intelligence is increasingly considered the “nervous system” of healthcare and the engine for its growth. Frost & Sullivan estimates that AI health market will reach $6.6 billion by 2021, a compound annual growth rate of 40 percent. In just the next five years, the health AI market will grow more than 10x.

AI in health is a constellation of technologies that enable machines to repeatedly sense their environment, understand the data, decide on and execute actions and learn from them in a virtuous circle. Unlike current and legacy technologies that exist to complement humans, the AI today is able to augment human activity. AI in healthcare can already perform administrative functions and is increasingly used in clinical applications. According to a recent analysis from Accenture, key clinical health AI applications combined can potentially create $150 billion in annual savings for the US healthcare economy by 2026.

Accenture analysed the top 10 AI applications including dosage error reduction, clinical trial matching and image diagnosis. They identified the following top three AI applications with the greatest near-term value to the health economy and likelihood of adoption:

  • robot-assisted surgery ($40 billion)

  • virtual nursing assistants ($20 billion)

  • administrative workflow assistance ($18 billion)

[See the chart below and another graphical representation of this data]

Drivers of AI in Clinical Applications

Artificial Intelligence is poised to influence and enable significant breakthroughs in nearly every aspect of the human condition. In clinical applications, the promise of this technology is to provide a set of tools to augment the capabilities of health systems and providers, improving their effectiveness and liberating physicians from mundane tasks so they can focus on the human side of medicine.

The convergence of internal and external pressures and new opportunities are driving the need for more sophisticated technologies and tools:

  • The onslaught of data. In clinical setting in particular, data-rich technologies such as whole-genome sequencing and mobile device biometrics require physicians to interpret and analyse vast amounts of data from disparate streams.

  • Recent healthcare mandates are mounting pressure on providers and health systems to focus on value based care and provide greater operational efficiency.

  • The rise of consumerism in healthcare. Patients are beginning to demand better and more personalized care. As a result, physicians are being inundated with data requiring more sophisticated interpretation while being expected to perform more efficiently.

The solutions are Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, which can enhance every stage of patient care, from research and discovery to diagnosis to selection of therapy to monitoring of treatment progress. Therefore, clinical practice will become more efficient, more convenient, more personalized, and more effective. In the future, the data will not be collected solely within the health care setting though. The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and proliferation of mobile sensors will allow physicians of the future to monitor, interpret, and respond to additional streams of biomedical data collected remotely and automatically.

AI in Other Industries

Finance & Banking

From bots to sales automation, Artificial Intelligence is helping global brands learn more about their customers to enhance personalization and drive sales. In fact, Gartner says that “by 2020, 85 percent of customer interactions will be managed without a human”.

Most enterprise app developers must rely on a variety of legacy data sources making it a challenge to deliver real-time insights. Hence the value of new tools for rapidly developing and deploying important new financial applications and a need for reliable, unified platforms spanning data management, interoperability, transaction processing, and analytics.


Organizations are already beginning to use AI to bolster cybersecurity and offer more protections against sophisticated hackers. AI helps by automating complex processes for detecting attacks and reacting to data breaches. According to ESG research, 12 percent of enterprise organizations have already deployed AI-based security analytics extensively, and 27 percent have deployed AI-based security analytics on a limited basis. With the rate of data breaches increasing, machine based security approaches are desperately needed to augment human security analysts.

Supply Chain & Logistics

AI can help employees find the right information they need faster, enabling them to log information more efficiently and streamline customer operations. The most clear use case for AI in this arena is harnessing the data from the supply chain, analyzing it, identifying patterns, and delivering insights for supply chain managers. In logistics, AI enables predictive analytics, forecasting demand, optimizing routes and handling network management. DHL for example has developed a tool to predict air freight transit time delays in order to enable proactive mitigation.


Artificial Intelligence has become Pentagon’s priority. Beyond robotics for military applications, agencies at the federal level are beginning to deploy AI-based interfaces for customer interactions, to enhance compliance, reduce fraud and deliver personalized services. A recent Accenture survey shows that 40 percent of taxpayers reported making a filing error in the last 24 months, with nearly 70 percent of taxpayers saying that they would use AI to improve the results. Given the scale and scope of data across agencies, the Artificial Intelligence opportunities are almost endless.

Highlights from 2018: Artificial Intelligence in Action

In October 2018, we participated in the InterSystems Global Summit and its inaugural AI Symposium. The Summit was held in San Antonio, Texas. Attendees got an extensive overview of the current landscape and present and future capabilities of Artificial Intelligence. From superb keynotes to experiential workshops, the breadth of current applications of AI on display was mind blowing. Here are the 3 examples that caught our attention in particular.

Affective Computing

The amazing Rosalind Picard kicked off the AI Symposium by sharing touching stories that led her to discover several phenomena, including stress as a predictor of convulsive seizures. Rosalind is founder and director of the Affective Computing research group at the MIT Media Lab. She also co-founded two companies: Empatica, which creates wearable sensors and analytics to improve health, and Affectiva, which delivers technology to help measure and communicate emotion.

Rosalind coined the term Affective Computing, sometimes referred to as Artificial Emotional Intelligence, or Emotion AI. This fascinating interdisciplinary field includes devices and systems that recognize, interpret, process and simulate human emotions or other affective phenomena. Emotion is fundamental to human experience. And with evolving Affective Computing technology, we can better understand the ways emotions impact health, learning, memory, behavior and social interaction. We can advance wellbeing by using new ways to communicate, understand, and respond to emotion.

Some of the examples of ongoing efforts include ways to help people with special needs to overcome challenges they face with motivation, communication and emotion regulation and improving human experiences by enabling computers, wearables and robots to receive natural emotional feedback. Another area of advancement is new ways to forecast and prevent depression ahead of any visible signs by using a combination of smartphones, wearables and Machine Learning. Rosalind also discovered a surprising strong connection between the brain and the skin that she has been exploring to predict and prevent major adverse health events.

More broadly, the Affective Computing technology coupled with Machine Learning analytics and Artificial Intelligence have a potential to significantly improve people's’ lives, with applications in “autism, epilepsy, depression, PTSD, sleep, stress, dementia, autonomic nervous system disorders, human and machine learning, health behavior change, market research, customer service, and human-computer interaction.”

AI-Enhanced Creativity

To continue with the theme of Artificial Intelligence, but showing its applications in human creativity, we heard from the brilliant Gil Weinberg. His keynote was about the jazz playing robot, Shimon, who uses algorithms and analytical thinking to give rise to new forms of creativity.

With his improvising robotic musicians such as Shimon, Gil has traveled the world, featuring this technology at the dozens of concerts and presentations in festivals and conferences such as SIGGRAPH, DLD and the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“Most of what Shimon is playing is generated using a new process where he creates hundreds of melodies offline based on deep learning analysis of large musical data sets,” said Gil. “Then us humans (me and my students) choose melodies we like and orchestrate/structure them into songs. It’s a new form of robot-human collaboration.” “We are now ready to move to the next frontier of real time collaborative improvisation – freestyle rapping, where the hope is that the rapper will be influenced by what Shimon is coming up with and vice versa.”

Gil’s newest invention is Travis (also known as Shimi), a smartphone-enabled AI robotic musical companion that is designed to enhance listener’s musical experiences. We left with the clear impression how creative robots can help humans to unlock their own creative potential.

AI Through the Years and the Eras

Babak Hodjat, dubbed the “inventor of Siri”, delivered the closing keynote of the AI Symposium in a spectacular outdoor setting. Babak took us on a journey through the Artificial Intelligence’s past, present and future. Babak is the inventor of the NLP-based technology currently used in Apple’s Siri. Now he is the CEO and co-founder of Sentient Technologies, the company that “created the world’s most powerful distributed AI platform”. Babak shared the evolution of technologies that used to be called Artificial Intelligence, but now are just commonplace tools. "Our tools are what define us as humans and allow us to change the world”. But while humans strive to develop new tools and invent technologies that change our experience and the world, Babak’s view of Artificial Intelligence is not without scepticism: “AI has over-promised and under-delivered. This is because there is a deep chasm between popular notions of AI, rooted in science fiction, and the reality of the state of AI. I think we need to educate people so that society’s reaction to AI is proportionate to the reality of where it is and its promise, rather than disproportionate to the perceived threat of Science Fiction AI.”

Surrounded by the beauty of the setting sun in Texas, Babak shared an impressive and thought provoking panoply of what’s next for AI, including the dawn of artificial humans. He explored the themes discussed earlier in the day by Rosalind Picard, including Affective Machine Learning. “Emotions are fundamental to human memory, and memory is not about the past, it is about the future”.

Looking to 2019 and Beyond

Stephen Hawking said that Artificial Intelligence could be “the biggest event in the history of our civilization.” We are already seeing the tremendous inroads that AI has made in virtually every industry, from Agriculture and Finance to Manufacturing and Energy to Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals. Despite AI’s rapid expansion, the Artificial Intelligence technology itself is still evolving. AI points towards a future where machines not only do physical work, as they have done since the industrial revolution, but also the “thinking” work – planning, strategizing, prioritizing and making decisions. From Narrow AI to General AI to Superintelligence and beyond. In fact, the definition of what is considered Artificial Intelligence keeps shifting. What used to be called AI even several years ago is now just widely used and familiar technology, and no longer resides under the AI umbrella. It might be the only field of technology where its definition and scope change as technology gets adopted.

Artificial Intelligence can already sense, think and act. AI can hear, see and speak through Natural Language Processing, speech recognition and Machine Vision. It can understand, perceive and assist via Machine Learning, Deep Learning and planning and scheduling. And AI can act in physical, cognitive and creative ways through robotic process automation, machine translation and adaptive systems. We are already experiencing many of these powerful abilities on a daily basis, perhaps even without knowing it, as AI is integrated into our everyday applications.

Processing Big Data might have been a hallmark of AI in 2015. By contrast, 2018 was the year of using tools, algorithms and platforms for Machine Learning to find adaptive solutions to complex problems. AI is ready to automate increasingly complex processes today, identify trends to create business value, and provide forward-looking intelligence. McKinsey study reports that advances in AI, machine learning and robotics “herald a new era of breakthrough innovation and opportunity”, pushing the frontier “in all facets of business and the economy.” In 2019, we will see smart, predictive technology being rolled out across a wide range of business operations and industries.

Yet to us, the most fascinating thing about AI is that it can make people superhuman and at the same time, help us be just more ... human. The future is not “Humans vs AI” but rather “Humans + AI”. And we are excited about what that future brings!

For Social Media highlights from #GlobalSummit18, see Artificial Intelligence in Action Twitter Moment.

For more Artificial Intelligence Predictions for 2019, see our guest post on theInterSystems’ Data Matters blog.

About the Authors

Evan Kirstel is an internationally recognized thought leader, top technology influencer and B2B marketer. With a social media following of more than 400K and organic reach in the millions, Evan is helping brands achieve massive visibility and scale across the social media landscape in areas like mobile, blockchain, cloud, 5G, Health Tech, IoT, AI, Digital Health, crypto, AR, VR, Big Data, Analytics and Cyber Security. Evan was recently named 4th Most Engaging Digital Marketer by Brand24. LinkedIn & Twitter: @EvanKirstel

Irma Rastegayeva is a Consultant and Coach at the intersection of health, technology, humanity and storytelling. Following 20+ year career in product development, consulting and management, Irma combines deep technical expertise with patient advocacy and community engagement at eViRa.Health. Named in the Top 30 Women in Tech, Irma is recognized as a top influencer in DigitalHealth, HealthTech and IoT. Irma serves on the board of the American College of Healthcare Trustees. LinkedIn & Twitter: @IrmaRaste


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