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An artificial intelligence algorithm has outclassed experts at predicting deaths from heart disease. According to the journal PLOS One, researchers from the Francis Crick Institute make yet another case for using A.I. to inform medical diagnoses.
"We've shown that you can give a computer someone's medical records ... and predict how likely a patient with heart disease is to die," Andrew Steele, a Crick researcher, told Digital Trends. "Traditional models get experts to select the most relevant variables for making these kinds of predictions, but we did just as well without telling the computer ... the most important or relevant things to take into account."
In their study, Steele and his team worked with researchers from the Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. They tested whether a self-taught model would be able to best experts at predicting deaths from heart problems.
The model created by the team was compared to the predictions done by experts, which take into account some 27 variables, including age, physical ailments, gender.
The Crick algorithm was designed to find patterns and useful variables from a list of 600. With access to 80,000 anonymized patient health records, the A.I. was able to outperform medical experts. It identified new variables that doctors had overlooked.
"They say that making predictions is hard, especially about the future, and building these models can be difficult and time-consuming," Steele said. "The great advantage of A.I. is that, done right, you can just throw all the data in and let the computer work out what's relevant, which could save future researchers a lot of time."
This is just a small step towards more accurate and effective diagnoses. AI has the potential to take a huge leap in the healthcare segment by supporting physicians with a more data-driven side of the job.
"I think at first these systems are going to be assisting rather than replacing doctors," Steele said. "Doctors already use tools to, for example, check your risk of a heart attack in the next few years before prescribing certain drugs. A.I. will help us develop more of these tools for different conditions, and help doctors and patients make better decisions. In the longer term, I think we'll see A.I. systems making recommendations for how to treat a patient, and we've already got computers interpreting things like scan results. But, for now at least, a human doctor is very important in understanding the output of these models, and helping patients make decisions based on them."