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28/05/2019

AI series (Part II): Monitoring paves way for timely interventions

Digital systems equipped with state-of-the-art microelectronics will soon make continual, comprehensive monitoring of patients possible. Artificial intelligence (AI) will then allow doctors to predict and prevent some conditions and respond immediately in the case of others, such as heart attacks, for example.

Digital health app
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The gathering and use of medical data will in future go far beyond recording the results of consultations and tests taken at the doctor's office or hospital. Physicians have already recognized the potential impact of collecting and analyzing a broader range of "live" data. At the launch of the Apple Watch, for example, American Heart Association President Ivor Benjamin said, "The gathering of significant data about the heart of a person in real time is changing the way we practice medicine."

Doctors are already using devices much more sophisticated than smart watches. One is the heart monitor marketed by the German company Cardiosecur. The company makes a 22-channel ECG device that works with a smart phone. The device delivers data of the quality needed to make diagnoses. More than 1500 doctors and five thousand patients are already using it.

At the same time, researchers are continuing to develop more complex systems for professional monitoring of health parameters such as exercise, nutrition, sleep, and daily stress levels. For example, Germany's Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the BMBF, is providing EUR 6.7 million for an innovative project known as Processes and Materials for More-than-Moore Electronic Systems, or PROMYS, for short.

Based at the University of Freiburg's Department of Sustainable Systems Engineering, which is working in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics, the project's aim is to design particularly small microsystems, including data-gathering sensors for bioanalytical devices. When applied in healthcare, these systems be a key component of new, technical developments that will allow continual medical monitoring of elderly, disabled, or sick people in order to provide them with rapid aid when they need it.

The market intelligence company Tractica published a report last year forecasting that the market for healthcare AI tools will exceed EUR 30 billion by the mid-2020. The report said this development would be driven mainly by "a growing desire to automate tasks and harness deeper insights into clinical and financial issues."

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