Telehealth and artificial intelligence – improved diagnoses, reduced costs - Activate World

Telehealth and artificial intelligence – improved diagnoses, reduced costs


Telehealth involves the use of telecommunications and virtual technology to deliver health care outside of traditional health-care facilities. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an array of technologies – from machine learning to natural language processing – that allows machines to sense, comprehend, act and learn. Clinical AI applications in telehealth can potentially save countless lives and tens of billions in annual savings for the U.S. healthcare economy.

Previously, telehealth meant treating patients located in remote areas, far away from healthcare facilities, or in locations with a shortage of medical professionals. However, in today’s interconnected world, telehealth is now a suite of tools and technologies for fast and efficient healthcare with AI prominent among them.

AI is essentially shorthand for any task a computer can perform better than humans. Most of the computer-generated solutions now emerging in healthcare do not rely on independent computer intelligence. Instead, they use human-created algorithms as the basis for analyzing data and recommending treatments.

By contrast, “machine learning” relies on neural networks (modeled on the human brain). Such applications involve multilevel probabilistic analysis, allowing computers to simulate and even expand on the way the human mind processes data.

“Deep learning,” is an AI variant that learns to recognize patterns in distinct layers. In healthcare, this mechanism is becoming increasingly useful. These newer visual tools promise to transform diagnostic medicine and can even search for cancer at the individual cell level.

In healthcare today, the most commonly used AI applications are algorithmic: evidence-based approaches programmed by researchers and clinicians.


  • Hospitals in India are testing software that checks images of a person’s retina for signs of diabetic retinopathy, a condition frequently diagnosed too late to prevent vision loss.
  • In orthopedic surgery, a form of AI-assisted robotics can analyze data from pre-op medical records to physically guide the surgeon’s instrument in real-time during a procedure.
  • In a study with Stanford Medicine, the Apple Watch detects cardiac Issues and prompts a telehealth doctor to show up on the patient’s phone to initiate a medical intervention within minutes.

Quests and Actions (Q&A):

  • More powerful AI can unexpectedly perpetuate historical biases and stereotypes against women or black people learned from humans. Can business leaders solve this through policy guidance for governments?
  • Instead of adversarial to humans, would it be more helpful and accurate to think about AI machines augmenting our collective intelligence and society?
  • Should AI technology be guided by pursuit of profit and power alone? Is it important to have guidelines and act ethically for the benefit of society?
Sources:  ForbesForbesHarvard Business Review, Healthcare IT News,  Health IT Analytics, Wired
Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash