June 12, 2024

Getting Started in the Field of Artificial Intelligence as a Medical Practitioner

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in healthcare was a reoccurring topic at the recently concluded e-Health 2024 Conference and Tradeshow, with sessions on clinical applications of AI, AI impact on workflows, and research on clinicians’ perceptions and attitudes towards AI.

The key takeaway being that AI in healthcare is the NOW.

AI has been around for a while, but ChatGPT’s public launch in November 2022 propelled its adoption among the general populace. The potential that 2024 holds for AI is immense as we witness the development of real-world applications. An interesting debate that this sparks is that of AI eliminating significant jobs, further fuelled by recent layoff by global cooperations. By 2025, AI is expected to eliminate 85 million jobs but create 97 million new ones, resulting in a net gain of 12 million. This rejects the myths of this aspect being negative and in many cases AI is likely to complement human work. Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly transforming healthcare—68% of healthcare organizations employ AI—and clinical practitioners are poised to be at the forefront of this revolution.

But how do you, as a busy medical professional, get started in this exciting new field?

Of utmost importance to note is that AI is interdisciplinary, and you don’t need a computer degree to get started. Interdisciplinary background and interest are all that is needed to redesign your career around AI. The trick is to focus on the problem you are trying to solve and then find a way for AI to solve it for you, that is, a medical practitioner with well-established non-technical skills. To combine your skills with AI skills, learning is an important factor. But first there is a need to understand how AI will impact the healthcare industry.

The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs report 2023 estimates that tasks performed by machines in the medical and healthcare industry will increase from 32% to 43% by 2027. The AI wave is upon us and it’s not going away.

How is AI already being used in the healthcare industry in Canada?

As of today, AI is primarily utilized to increase speed and accuracy in the healthcare realm. Some of the current uses of AI in this field include:

  • Diagnosing patients by analyzing medical imaging data, such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans
  • Transcribing medical documents and improving administrative efficiency
  • Enhancing health research and drug development and the deployment of different public health interventions, such as disease surveillance, outbreak response, and health systems management

What AI tools already exist and are making impacts?

The list is a long one. Many of the exhibitors and presenters at e-Health 2024 showcased AI tools already in use. Do some research to know the key players in your specific field of practice and explore how you can apply these AI tools to enhance your practice. Also ask, what are others doing? What is working for them? Then try to replicate.

Focus on industry-specific AI tools. For administration, explore and learn Generative AI applications that can automate tasks such as Appointment Scheduling, Documentation and Record-Keeping, Billing and Claims Processing, Data Entry and Extraction, Insurance Verification, and Communication Management. You could discover that one tool can do all these. The same goes for other use cases.

Know your superpower

Know your superpower and hone in on that—pick up a new AI-related skill that aligns with your specialty. It could be coding, prompt engineering (a must-have skill these days), or learning to interact with a pre-trained AI model. Upskilling doesn’t have to be expensive or structured. YouTube is a great place to start once you have niched down. There are many podcasts and thought leaders to listen to and or follow: Hard Fork by The New York Times, where they explore the latest in the rapidly changing world of tech. The Medical Futurist is always abreast with the latest AI in health news. Keep learning, engage in a community, find a mentor.

Combining AI with your industry expertise and soft skills will open doors for freelancing, consulting, working with AI companies and shaping the future of your industry. Focus on the challenges around you and think about what you want to solve. If you have a goal, you will be motivated.

Ezinne V.C Onwuekwe is a digital health strategist, with expertise in analytics, informatics and project management. She is the founder of The VC Health Tech Hub (an online community empowering healthcare professionals in a digital age) and currently works as a senior clinical informatics analyst at Nova Scotia Health (One Person, One Record Programme). She is an international speaker, writer and capacity builder.