The unknown evokes fear. Any advancement, no matter the field it occurs in, is greeted with doubt and skepticism as individuals ascertain whether it can be trusted. Progress in the medical field, especially as it relates to the presence of artificial intelligence (AI), is no exception to the rule.
Similar to the majority of advancements, the continual growth of AI in the medical field stems from the need to address real-world medical issues. As technology progresses, the medical field overall is working to mitigate the fear and misconceptions of AI use in point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS).
“We wouldn’t have nearly as much medical progress as we’ve had for the past 100 years if people didn’t actually take the initiative and try something different,” said Fouad Al-Noor, co-founder of ThinkSono. “But at the same time, with any risk comes consequences, so it’s that mitigation of risk that is vital.”
Al-Noor has first-hand experience in how AI can be used to address medical issues and help provide better care. His organization is also in the process of growing awareness of the uses of AI in the field. With a background in electrical engineering, Al-Noor, and his co-founder Sven Mischkewitz established their company at Entrepreneur First in 2016.
Described by Al-Noor as “essentially an ultrasound AI company,” at ThinkSono they “build software to allow ultrasound to be used by novices like nursing staff, junior doctors and other physicians who don’t have formal ultrasound experience.”
This integration of AI with ultrasound, especially in handheld ultrasound such as POCUS, expands the community of medical professionals who can confidently provide care using these innovative tools. Ultrasound is a tool that can help diagnose a wide variety of pathologies across the medical spectrum, using AI to make it more accessible to all health care providers and will increase the quality of care at all levels.
For ThinkSono, the first complication they are working on is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is one of the number one causes of preventable hospital deaths. By integrating AI and ultrasound with POCUS, ThinkSono is working to make software that will allow a DVT diagnosis “to be done easier by non-specialists.”
As AI in the medical field becomes more prominent, the discourse surrounding it has become clouded due to misunderstandings and misconceptions surrounding what AI is.
“The myth that AI is artificial intelligence I think isn’t altogether true, because intelligence itself is not very well defined today,” said Al-Noor. “I mean, it’s an easy word to say, but I think it has lots of connotations to it which aren’t quite accurate.”
According to Al-Noor, AI functions in a way that is both similar and different to how the human brain works. It “uses particular algorithms called convolution neural networks… it’s also able to learn from the data it receives.” Through the data it receives, it can make accurate predictions that enhance patient care.
While referring to AI as ‘artificial intelligence’ and believing it holds the answer to every problem is a fallacy, there is truth behind the benefits and enhancements it allows in the medical field by “allow[ing] predictions with large amounts of data that we couldn’t do as human beings.”
The fear elicited by new technology, especially in medicine, is natural. People are not only worried that automation will take their jobs, but also about their safety. Still, in its early stages, the full advantages and capabilities of AI are too unknown for it to replace human jobs. Also, as it is on its path to becoming the new norm, it is being vetted and researched thoroughly to provide the safest care possible.
While the fears are understandable, with benefits greatly outweighing the negative stigma associated with it, it is clear that using AI in the medical field will vastly improve the future of patient care. Especially as it is integrated with POCUS, artificial intelligence is allowing for more non-specialists to use the technology which is vital in finding faster and more accurate diagnoses.
As these tools and technologies become more developed, Al-Noor says it is essential to make sure that specialists are and stay informed. The technology alone cannot make the diagnosis. With POCUS as an example, he stated: “You can only use it to the extent of the people in the hospital that can interpret the images from POCUS.”
Going forward, Al-Noor hopes to see technology that incorporates AI to be more user friendly and more automated so more healthcare professionals will utilize it.
“I think POCUS can become that catalyst that allows non-specialists to be able to assess multiple problems with confidence,” he said.
AI-Noor shares more on our podcast, POCUS and Artificial Intelligence. Listen in to full episode.
Looking for additional inspiration? Sign up for our POCUS Post™ newsletter to receive monthly tips and ideas.