An executive working in the
artificial intelligence (AI) space, Shourjya Sanyal, PhD, chief executive officer of Think Biosolution,
said the rapid aging of the worldwide population is opening the door to the use
of AI to help care for people with chronic diseases as health care delivery
adapts to increased demands.
In an article written for Forbes
magazine, he noted the number of people aged 80 years and older will
rise from the current 14.5 percent of the U.S. population (65 and older) to
more than 20 percent by 2030, with similar patterns seen across most of the
rest of the Western world.
As a result, health care delivery pathways “need
to be readjusted, keeping in mind the prevalence of chronic diseases,
comorbidities and polypharmacy requirements of the elderly and geriatric
patients.” There are also specific diseases related to this age cohort as well,
like atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes,
dementia, and osteoarthritis that require “quick diagnosis and continuous
supervision by a professional caregiver.”
Added to the mix is the growing shortage of physicians
and caregivers, Sanyal said. In the United States alone, projections foresee a shortage
of between 40,800 and 104,900 physicians by 2030.
To partially meet this growing demand and to fill
in the clinical labor gap, he said some providers are beginning to offload
certain parts of the care pathways to AI-based automatization.
“AI can now be found in every step of the care pathway,
starting from intelligent tracking of biometric information to early diagnosis
of diseases. AI is helping patients and their families understand the treatment
pathways. AI is also helping clinicians to treat the conditions more
efficiently,” Sanyal said.
Increasingly, caregivers in the home and facility
are tapping into AI technology that allows for continuous remote patient
monitoring. He even said voice-based virtual assistants like the Amazon Echo are
using AI to enable medication adherence and care coordination for elders.
For daily living, Apple devices and Fitbit have
made smart wearable biometric trackers available to elderly and geriatric
patients. “Elderly patients can use this device’s built-in AI-powered functionality
to check inconsistencies in their biometric data, as well
as detect a
significant or hard fall and sound an alarm,” Sanyal said.
There are even robotic helpers out
there for purchase for those living alone. “Robots like Catalia Health’s Mabu, Intuition
Robotics’ ElliQ, CT Asia Robotics’ Dinsow, and Reiken’s Robobear are
virtual home assistants for elders who live alone and require daily assistance
as well as companionship,” he said.
Beyond the actual use of AI is the
big assist the technology is allowing for in the field of research. Deep
learning tools are playing a role in studies looking at the biologics of aging,
as well as age-related disease.
Deep learning refers is
a subfield of machine learning concerned with algorithms inspired by the human
brain called artificial neural networks.
As examples of how AI is transforming
health care for specific diseases, Sanyal reviewed advances in cardiac care,
where in the United Kingdom, AI designed by researchers was better able to
predict heart disease than doctors.
“Although AI research is still in its infancy,
these early studies already establish how AI is set to revolutionize cardiac care,”
he said. “This is particularly relevant today as cardiovascular diseases are
still the No. 1 killer in the world, resulting in 31 percent of all global deaths, and is also the most expensive condition to treat.”