It’s a popular millennial quip that an accurate sign of adulthood is having to book your own doctor’s appointment.
While it may be a joke, many of us are actually too afraid to call in to meet a doctor, either because we’re too used to having our parents do it for us, or more frequently, because we fear going to the doctor. This fear stems from the vulnerability often felt when one is sick, alone and away from their family at college.
Using myself as an example, I’m certainly not hesitant to go to the doctor or call in an appointment. However, in my freshman year when I caught a bout of viral fever and a throat infection, the impairment of my immune system simultaneously weakened my ability to remain rational and properly care for myself. Not completely understanding the power of my health insurance and being miles away from my parents who usually took care of me in my sickness, I delayed calling Student Health Services for as long as possible. What if this irritated cough and throbbing headache were an indication of something far more serious? Or worse, what if this doctor’s visit turned out to be really expensive?
Many people around the world fail to get regular checkups with their doctor because of the costly price tag, but also because a lot of us believe we are perfectly healthy. However, considering that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, Google’s new artificial intelligence algorithm’s ability to detect people who are at risk for cardiovascular problems simply by scanning their eyes seems more useful now than ever.
The system is able to scan the back of a patient’s eye, and then uses this data to surmise their age, whether they smoke or not and their risk of heart disease. I, for one, was surprised to learn that your eyes hold so much information about the status of your health. Traditional heart disease related checkups in a clinical setting often use a fairly invasive procedure involving chest X-rays, needles, blood tests and stress tests.
These tests are said to have a 72 percent rate of being accurate. Google’s artificial intelligence algorithm doesn’t fall far behind with a success rate of 70 percent. Imagine the sigh of relief people with trypanophobia would release upon learning that their next doctor’s visit may only require a simple scan of their eyes.
Certainly, Google’s device is not completely prepped and ready for clinical use, but it’s well on its way. I find the use of artificial intelligence and machine-learning to be incredibly groundbreaking, especially in the medical field.
In an internship, I used machine-learning algorithms to help estimate the credit risk of an individual. In the course of this project, my algorithm was able to work independently and output factors I should consider including in my formula to garner a more accurate credit risk rate.
For these algorithms to be used in medicine, the hope is that a machine can identify risks and insights without any human interference. Artificial intelligence is not here to replace doctors, but rather support and enhance the accuracy of diagnosis. Hopefully, this algorithm is cost-efficient as well, hence incentivizing people to get their health checked out and detect any abnormalities as early as possible.