“AI systems can perform semantic reasoning about treatments and diseases over literally millions of conditions and treatments, an impossible task for even the most experienced human doctor,” adds Babylon’s spokesperson.

Wearable tech means were finding more ways to treat illness without using drugs

The company is also exploring the opportunities offered by another technology trend bound to have a significant impact on the future of healthcare: wearable devices. Babylon recently launched a new feature enabling its app to be paired with a wearable fitness tracker to gather a user’s physiological data and —after crunching it with AI— predict whether they will develop a health condition.

“Today, personal health tracking devices allow users to monitor and analyse their health in real-time. By integrating multiple sources of physiological data into our models, in the future, AI systems will be able to predict a patient’s’ future health state with exceptional accuracy,” the company says.

“The most exciting development is in providing doctors with more accurate and rapid access to clinical data, therefore enabling more accurate and efficient clinical diagnoses”, adds J.P. Morgan’s Anjala. “I firmly believe that the human touch that a doctor brings to the most difficult judgements, as well as the personal interface they can provide to a patient are not easily replaceable with AI. However nothing is more frustrating for a patient, or more wasteful for the healthcare system, than having patients bounced around multiple referral pathways to different specialists based on incomplete diagnoses.”

“By increasing the efficiency of diagnosis and narrowing down possible diagnoses using AI, we can streamline the patient pathway, eliminate un-necessary costs, and ask highly trained medical professionals to focus their time where it is most needed, at the patient and treatment interface.”

When it comes to wearable devices, their applications go beyond constantly tracking our health over time: wearables could also become tools for treatment, or for connecting patients with healthcare professionals.

New Jersey-based company ThirdEye, for example, has designed a pair of smart glasses that combine augmented reality and artificial intelligence to improve the lives of dementia patients.

“Patients with Alzheimer’s can look at a family member and ThirdEye can use image recognition to identify that person and show a label with their information next to their face,” explains ThirdEye founder Nick Cherukuri. “This technology has also huge applications for visually impaired people, helping them recognise what they are looking at.” The device also has a streaming application that allows doctors to remotely visit patients in far locations, and one day it could be used in the operating room, too.

“Doctors can have extremely accurate overlays that are needed for surgeries: they could use AR to see exactly how to do the surgery, based on the individual patient’s biometric info,” Cherukuri says. “For instance they will see the leg structure overlays of a given patient and get step-by-step instructions live in their field of view about how to do the surgery.” These developments do not necessarily mean that we will just stop going to see our GP when we feel unwell, explains Anjala, although things will necessarily evolve.

“I think technology will continue to reduce the number of physical visits needed by patients to hospitals and outpatient surgeries. Any consultation that can be delivered electronically is a saving of time and money and a reduction in cross infection risk,” Anjala says.

“However there will always be the need for physical hospital infrastructure for a very simple reason, there will always be a subset of medical conditions that require physical intervention at a dedicated healthcare facility. I believe hospitals will continue to get smaller, more efficient and smarter, but I equally firmly believe they will always be around.”