Tuesday, September 24, 2019

AI Will be Changing Diagnostic Procedures Sooner than You Think...


A huge push in the AI field is medical diagnosis and soon we will be seeing this move into dentistry.  

If you happen to use Google Photos to help keep track of all the pictures you take with your phone, try a little experiment.  Think of an event where you’ve taken pictures or a certain subject such as a pet.  Then open the Google Photos app on your phone and in the search bar type in what you are looking for… such as “cat”.  Within a few seconds your phone will display every picture of a cat that resides in your photo collection.  If you’ve never tried this, you should.  It is flat out amazing.  That is simply an easy demonstration of what the Google AI algorithm can do.

Now Google and other companies are taking that algorithm or others like it and are applying it to healthcare images.  Recently it was announced that the Google AI system identified lung cancer with a remarkable  94.4% accuracy.  The amazing thing is that the accuracy is also combined with the speed of computer processing.  According to the article I read "When an earlier scan was available, the AI and the radiologists performed equally well in detecting cancers, but in the second study, the AI outperformed the human doctors with fewer false positives and fewer false negatives.”  That is flat out amazing.  Evaluating x-rays, CAT scans, pathology slides and many other diagnostic realms unfortunately is a bit of a subjective art and requires years of training to attain the skill to quickly and accurately evaluate and process the data.  AI can do this much faster and learns at the rate of a computer.

One of the great things about this is that a computer doesn’t provide a subjective evaluation.  It simply processes the data and makes an educated recommendation.  This is NOT diagnosis, it is DATA points.  What the humans in charge choose to do with that data is up to them.

Now in dentistry we are seeing a remarkable effort to use AI to help in reading radiographs.  After taking standard bitewing radiographs, an AI algorithm can then analyze them and quickly identify areas that the doctor should evaluate.  Imagine having a second set of well educated eyes that can identify area of interest or help you decide whether an area is suspicious or not.  The doctor can agree or disagree with the indicated information and the system will learn from the input, just like a student.

A company called DentistryAI has been working for a while on such a system and it shows definite promise.  For the past 18 months I have been having my radiographs analyzed by their AI system and it quickly became something I cannot do without.  The company is making rapid progress and I anticipate seeing an industry announcement for sales in the not too distant future.  AI is rapidly changing lots of things in our everyday lives and our professions and it is becoming so ubiquitous that often times we don’t even know it is there.  However, get ready for it to make some serious changes in healthcare in the very near future.

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