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Tuesday, May 2, 2023 | By: NUHS Team

How artificial intelligence could transform complementary and alternative medicine

Interest in artificial intelligence (AI) has surged in recent years. From data analysis to creating art, there are useful applications for many different professions. The health care industry is no exception. 

Primary care, or first-contact care commonly offered within the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) field, could be largely affected. According to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, AI is growing into the public health sector and is going to have a major impact on every aspect of primary care.  

Whatever your career plans within medicine, artificial intelligence is sure to have some sort of implication, especially in the coming years. It’s important for health care professionals to understand not only how these tools work but how they could improve health care delivery to patients. Here are some of the ways AI could impact patient care: 

1. AI can further enhance personalized treatment 

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of CAM is that it offers health care that is individualized to each patient. Thanks to AI, health care practitioners can continue this personalized approach more efficiently.  

AI algorithms can be used to quickly analyze patient data and suggest personalized treatment plans that are tailored to an individual's exact needs. This could help CAM practitioners to develop more effective treatment plans that take into account a patient's lifestyle, medical history, and other factors. AI could also help provide a wider range of treatment options for a CAM practitioner to choose from. 

Every individual is complex, particularly when they have co-morbidities or particular diet restrictions. By utilizing AI, health care practitioners can help reduce their everyday workload. 

2. AI can offer a fast and accurate diagnosis 

Diagnosis is a crucial aspect of health care. It can make all the difference when it comes to getting better or not. However, many people often go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed. According to a 2022 report published by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, more than 7 million incorrect diagnoses are made in US emergency rooms every year. AI could help change that. 

AI-powered diagnostic tools can help CAM practitioners to identify health issues more accurately and quickly. AI can look at more than just symptoms, too. AI algorithms can analyze medical images and detect signs of disease that might be missed by the human eye.  

For example, a 2017 study found that some AI systems were able to outperform dermatologists in correctly classifying suspicious skin lesions. According to researchers, this could be because AI systems can learn more from successive cases and can be exposed to multiple cases within minutes, which far outnumber the cases a clinician could evaluate in one mortal lifetime. 

Health care practitioners can utilize this important AI tool to assist with earlier detection of health issues and more effective treatment. 

3. AI research could help advance the field

One of the advantages of AI is the amount of data it can analyze faster than any human. This is particularly beneficial when it comes to research. With more funding being dedicated to CAM research, AI could one day become an invaluable tool.  

AI takes large amounts of data and identifies patterns that might otherwise go unnoticed. This could lead to new insights into the effectiveness of various CAM treatments and the underlying mechanisms of how they work.  

Research that continues to support CAM could also lead to more credibility in the industry as a whole. This could bring CAM into more hospitals and be exposed to more patients in general.  

4. Remote patient monitoring and AI data analysis could improve health outcomes

AI-powered wearable devices and mobile apps might be able help CAM practitioners to remotely monitor their patients' health and wellness.  

Heart Rate Variability (HRV), for example, is one the of latest ways doctors are monitoring patient’s health. Chiropractors and allopathic doctors have already started using HRV to help their patients manage their lifestyle and long-term health. 

Regular tracking can help doctors determine when patients’ bodies are stressed and prone to breakdown over the course of a day or a week and how adaptable their nervous system is. Depending on which daily activities may coincide with certain trends, patients who regularly track HRV can see how lack of sleep, ingestion of alcohol or a meditation session impacts their health. More importantly, HRV can help predict larger health concerns, illness, injury and mental or emotional dysregulations.   

By utilizing tools like HRV and AI data analyzation, CAM practitioners could help to prevent health issues from developing and allow for early intervention if problems do arise. More importantly, these tools are often affordable and accessible to everyone. 

5. AI could streamline workflow at a private clinic

Outside of health treatments, AI can help CAM practitioners streamline the busy work that often comes with running a health care office. For example, AI could automate routine tasks such as appointment scheduling, patient communication, and record-keeping. 

This could also help practitioners save money on personnel who would otherwise complete these tasks. More importantly, it could free up more time for practitioners, allowing them to spend more time face-to-face with patients and focus more on overall patient care. 

AI is still a relatively new field with challenges in terms of data privacy, accuracy, and ethical considerations. However, in the future, AI has the potential to significantly enhance the practice of CAM. It enables practitioners to do so much more than could have ever been possible with the ultimate goal of supporting better patient outcomes.  

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