Germany leads in developing artificial intelligence for healthcare

Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to revolutionize healthcare in the next ten years say German researchers and a study by the international business consulting firm PwC Germany. The work of a number of German research facilities, including the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and 29 Fraunhofer institutes, is paving the way for technologies that PwC says could reduce healthcare costs by more than 170 billion in Europe in the coming decade.

Medical robot robot with the first aid kit /

Artificial intelligence is intelligence that is demonstrated by machines. AI researchers define it as any device that perceives its environment and acts to optimize its chance of success in achieving some goal. AI has a number of medical uses. It is already being applied, to name just one example, to analyze the results of CAT scans of stroke patients.

Published in June, PwC's study "Sherlock Health" focused on three common ailments, obesity in children, breast cancer and dementia. It said that AI could use health data to predict which individuals were likely to fall ill with these diseases and allow people to take preventive measures before they became patients.

The Healthcare & Pharma Leader PwC Germany, Michael Burkhart, noted that it would take work to exploit fully the benefits of AI. "… AI only works on the basis of enormous stores of data, and these must be resolutely established. Nevertheless, the potential benefits of AI are so great that the effort is undoubtedly worth it."

Germany is playing a leading role in R&D dedicated to reaping AI's medical potential. With five sites around Germany, the DFKI is currently the biggest AI research center worldwide in terms of number of employees and the volume of external funds. It is self-financed through research commissions. Among the DFKI projects that have medical applications are interactive textiles, cyber-physical systems, including the Bremen Ambient Assisted Living Lab, and intelligent analytics for massive data – smart data.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems (IAIS) is working on medical applications of big data as well. It is also cooperating with the Fraunhofer Institute of for Medical Image Computing, MEVIS, on applying medical image computing and training a computer to teach itself to identify precisely patterns in diagnostic images that indicate disease.