Artificial intelligence can’t replace human professionals but it could transform the way they treat diseases such as cancer, and save lives
Mihaela van der Schaar is director of the Cambridge Centre for AI in Medicine at the University of Cambridge
From the soaring costs of US healthcare to the recurrent NHS crisis, it can often seem that effective and affordable healthcare is impossible. This will only get worse as chronic conditions grow in prevalence and we discover new ways to treat previously fatal diseases. These new treatments tend to be costly, while new approaches can be hard to introduce into healthcare systems that are either resistant to change or fatigued by too much of it. Meanwhile, growing demand for social care is compounding funding pressure and making the allocation of resources even more complicated.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is often glibly posed as the answer for services that are already forced to do more with less. Yet the idea that intelligent computers could simply replace humans in medicine is a fantasy. AI tends not to work well in the real world. Complexity proves an obstacle. So far, AI technologies have had little impact on the messy, inherently human world of medicine. But what if AI tools were designed specifically for real-world medicine – with all its organisational, scientific, and economic complexity?