NEW research has suggested artificial intelligence can diagnose breast cancer more accurately than trained doctors as AI seems set to revolutionise healthcare.

AI in healthcare?

Complex algorithms and software are used to emulate human behaviour in the analysis of complex medical data to diagnose and treat patients.

It’s already in use?

Microsoft UK has reported an “encouraging increase” in the use of AI technologies in healthcare. Their survey in October, found 46% of healthcare leaders reported their organisation used the technology in some form, up 8% on 2018.

So what are examples of current use?

Wide-ranging, from identifying patients most likely to miss appointments and giving them reminder phone calls, to the use of robots to analyse data from pre-op medical records to guide a surgeon's instrument during surgery.

It’s a developing field?

The UK government pledged £250 million into AI health tech in August, toward improving the quality of care.

The latest findings?

An algorithm developed by researchers, at Northwestern University in Chicago and Imperial College London, working alongside Google Health, slashed the number of missed breast cancer cases from one in ten to one in 37.


By noticing tumours undetected by radiologists in a study of nearly 26,000 women who had mammograms at NHS hospitals, as well as just over 3,000 US cases. When the algorithm assessed the scans, 2.7% were missed, in comparison to the 9.4% missed by a panel of six radiologists.

It could become routine?

Researchers hope the breast cancer detection system will become as common as simply using “spell check”, reducing life-threatening delays from “false negatives”.

AI has surpassed medics before?

In 2018, an international study by researchers from France, Germany and the US used machines trained to detect signs of skin cancer to compare the results against 58 dermatologists. The machines correctly diagnosed malignant cases in 95% of cases – the dermatologists diagnosed 87%.


The reality of integrating sophisticated AI systems into day-to-day healthcare would require intensive training and there are concerns about the abilities of already ageing hospital IT systems. Safeguarding data would also be key, as well as an awareness of a need not to become totally reliant on AI to the abandonment of human intuition.

But it is the future?

A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research in 2018 found that in healthcare, robots could soon be taking over a wide range of tasks, with machines diagnosing and also aiding patients to eat their meals and move around wards.

In Japan, for example, Tokai Rubber Industries has developed a healthcare robot to lift and move humans up to 175lbs.

There will always be a place for people?

Co-author of the latest study, Dr Mozziyar Etemadi, an assistant professor of anaesthesiology at Northwestern, said more research is required, adding that the “ultimate goal will be to find the best way to combine the two - the magic of the human brain isn't going anywhere any time soon”.