Big Data and AI: a revolution in the medical field
Published Jul 21, 2023 • By Claudia Lima
In the medical field, Big Data refers to all the data available on health, collected from different sources. While Artificial Intelligence (AI) is designed to support healthcare, it offers new opportunities to improve diagnosis, treatment and healthcare management.
What are Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI)? What impact do they have on the latest medical discoveries?
Read our article for more information!
What does “Big Data” and Artificial Intelligence (AI) mean?
The term "big data" refers to vast sets of data that are extremely voluminous, complex and varied. This data exceed the capacity of traditional data management and analysis tools.
By processing and analyzing Big Data, it is possible to extract valuable information, discover patterns, trends and hidden correlations, and improve decision-making and performance in many areas, such as scientific research.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a field of computer science that aims to create systems capable of performing tasks that normally require human intelligence.
These systems use algorithms and mathematical models to learn from data, adapt to new situations and make independent decisions.
Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI), thanks to their synergy, have transformed many sectors of the economy, from finance to industry. However, one of the areas that can benefit most from these advances is medical research.
What is the impact of big data on medical practice?
Big Data provides a vast amount of medical information from a variety of sources, such as electronic medical records, patient monitoring devices, laboratory test results, medical images, clinical trials, genetic data, public health data, social networks, etc.
Medical data analysis offers a number of advantages. By studying large quantities of it, researchers and clinicians can discover patterns, correlations and trends that would otherwise have been difficult to detect.
Big Data also makes precision medicine possible. By combining information from different sources, it becomes possible to make evidence-based medical decisions specific to each patient.
What is the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on medical practice?
With its ability to learn automatically and process large amounts of data, AI can help improve diagnosis, clinical decision-making, medical research and many other aspects of medical practice.
For example, AI can analyze medical data such as X-ray images, scans and test results to help doctors make more accurate diagnoses. For example, in the field of medical imaging, AI can help detect anomalies such as tumors or lesions, providing assistance to radiologists in their interpretation.
By analyzing patient data (medical history, test results), AI can provide recommendations to doctors, who can then offer personalized treatments and care plans tailored for each patient.
At the pharmaceutical level, AI algorithms can analyze data on chemical compounds, simulate their interaction with biological targets and predict their potential effectiveness.
This technology can also be used to continuously monitor patients' vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen levels.
Finally, AI plays a key role in surgical robotics systems, enabling surgeons to perform precise and less invasive procedures.
It is important to point out that AI does not replace healthcare professionals, but assists them and improves their ability to provide quality care. Final medical decisions must always be made by qualified doctors.
What challenges and concerns are linked to using Big Data and AI in the medical field?
Data storage and standardization
Huge volumes of data available raise technical challenges in terms of storage and exploitation capacities. Research organizations all have storage servers and supercomputers.
The data collected must also be standardized, i.e. it must be acquired in a structured and coded way before it can be integrated into databases or data warehouses, so that it can be processed and used. Fortunately, specific standards are being developed (Ex.: i2b2).
Protection of private data and data security
The use of Big Data and AI in medicine can raise certain issues, particularly with regard to privacy and data security, which are major concerns, as medical information is sensitive and must be handled with care.
In this context, a number of rules need to be taken into account:
- Consent and transparency: individuals must be given informed consent before their personal data is collected,
- Anonymization: in order to minimize the risk of identifying individuals, personally identifiable information in the data collected must be removed or encrypted,
- Data security: robust security measures need to be taken in order to protect data against unauthorized access, leaks or breaches,
- Data governance: to ensure responsible and ethical use of the information collected, companies must establish clear data governance policies,
- Compliance with regulations: companies must comply with data protection laws and regulations (e.g. GDPR),
- Education and awareness: users must be made aware of the risks associated with privacy and data security.
The biases and ethics of Big Data and AI in the medical field
Datasets used to train AI models can be biased according to the sources from which the data comes. This can lead to creating models that do not fairly represent the diversity of the real population. The consequences can therefore be ethical, especially in the case of discrimination.
If data is misused or shared without informed consent, this can raise confidentiality and privacy concerns for individuals.
AI-based systems can be complex and difficult to understand. This can raise liability issues when errors occur.
The use of new technologies by healthcare professionals
Healthcare professionals need to be trained in the use of these technologies.
Successful implementation of new technologies in medical practice requires a collaborative approach between healthcare professionals, researchers, technology companies and regulators to ensure their responsible and ethical use.
Big Data and Artificial Intelligence have revolutionized the medical field by opening new perspectives for research, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Their potential is enormous. However, it is crucial to guarantee the protection of privacy and data security.
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