When people talk about advances in medical technology for digital health purposes, they usually think in terms of new instruments, or better detection methods to treat and diagnose illness. But there’s one area that’s growing surprisingly fast in terms of importance, “computer vision.” Computer vision is about advancements related to the video portion of technology, and, in many ways, even teaching computers to “see”. Why is computer vision helpful to digital health?
Digital Health Requires It
In one sense, computer vision is already in heavy use in the virtual hospital model that his being pioneered by organizations like the Medically Home Group. One aspect of “telemedicine” is the patient being able to communicate with a medical professional, not just through voice, but face- to- face thanks to video conferencing.
This is critical for patients to show doctors issues they have, or, in the case of counseling or psychotherapy, to maintain critical lines of facial and visual communication, in addition to verbal. Telemedicine with video communication is a way for both patients and doctors to avoid lengthy trips for appointments that might last an hour or only a few minutes.
When Computers Can See
The other big advance in computer vision is using a combination of machine learning and artificial intelligence to teach computers how to “see.” Computers are much faster than humans at mechanical activities, such as math operations, or finding patterns. Some companies are now using computer vision to help artificial intelligence find effective pharmaceutical cures.
These companies conduct extensive experiments with different drugs, then analyze the results by looking at the visual patterns of how cells react to experimental drugs. Computer vision, in this case, can analyze entire suites of different experiments at a much faster rate than humans can. They can spot the promising developments from a huge array of attempts, and notify scientists of which results are worth taking a closer look at.
In the same way, computer vision has become very useful in allowing software to go over medical data, such as MRI scans, and find the patterns in the scans doctors are looking for much faster than the doctors themselves. Many groups predict that AI and computer vision will be an important part of radiology in the future. There’s even some talk that computer vision may be critical in looking at MRI scans and predicting Alzheimer’s five years before the symptoms emerge. Computer vision is becoming an important part of advanced digital health and telemedicine.