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AI's impact on the common health conditions affecting seniors


One of the most powerful impacts of artificial intelligence s how it's being used to prevent, detect, and treat common health conditions affecting elderly patients.

AI's impact on the common health conditions affecting seniors

Artificial intelligence is arguably one of the most important technologies being used in healthcare today. I could talk forever about AI's significance in healthcare, from its ability to predict treatment protocols based on various datasets to its automation of administrative tasks. But one of the most powerful impacts of artificial intelligence, which will be the focus of this article, is how it's being used to prevent, detect, and treat some of the most common health conditions affecting elderly patients.

The list of health conditions impacted by AI is pretty extensive. Diabetes, cancer, strokes, and sleep apnea are just a few areas where we're seeing substantial improvements in patient outcomes. In this article, I want to take a look at four other conditions experiencing a similar level of disruption thanks to artificial intelligence: falls, sepsis, cardiovascular issues, and dementia.

Predicting and preventing falls

One in four seniors fall every year in the United States. That means around 36 million falls are reported, resulting in over 32,000 deaths. It may be surprising to hear that falls are actually one of the leading cause of fatal injury in older adults. This is a scary statistic for a condition that can be easily prevented with the right interventions, like artificial intelligence

Researchers at two universities in North Carolina used cameras and virtual reality systems to record 30 different body markers on elderly patients as they walked on a treadmill. Visual cues were introduced that suggested the motion of swaying or falling so that the technology was able to identify if the patient had any balance impairments that were previously undiagnosed. This diagnosis made it possible for facilities and caregivers to know which patient was a fall risk and would need further monitoring.

Skilled nursing facilities and other long-term care centers also have access to AI-enabled technology like UC Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research Labs' SafelyYou, a company that installs cameras in patient rooms which immediately alert staff the moment a fall is detected. This has been proven to reduce falls by 40 percent and lower emergency room visits by approximately 80 percent.

Demystifying and combating sepsis

Sepsis is commonly undetected or misdiagnosed, especially in older adults, who become more susceptible to sepsis as they age. Sepsis claims one in five lives each year, so early detection is critical in saving lives.

There is still so much mystery surrounding sepsis, which is why it goes undetected. Its earliest symptoms, like confusion and fever, can easily be attributed to other conditions, so technologies like artificial intelligence are powerful tools in getting patients the diagnosis and treatment they need as quickly as possible.

John Hopkins University recently developed a new AI system that has reduced sepsis deaths by around 20 percent. Their Targeted Real-Time Early Warning system combs through a patient's medical notes, clinical records, and lab results to identify if someone is at-risk of developing sepsis. It then recommends treatment protocols depending on the patient, such as starting antibiotic treatment, and keeps all the healthcare staff involved in that patient's care journey informed of what's going on. According to their data, the AI was accurate nearly 40 percent of the time, which is far more advanced than even just a few years ago.

Detecting overlooked cardiovascular diseases

Adults over the age of 65 are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than younger generations, although heart problems are one of the most common conditions affecting the global population and also one of the leading causes of death. For this reason, there's been a major push for using AI to help predict and prevent cardiovascular problems. And a lot of incredible opportunities have come from this.

Physician-scientists at the Smidt Heart Institute have developed an AI tool that helps medical staff identify two major life-threatening heart conditions that often get missed: cardiac amyloidosis and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Algorithms can pinpoint diseases that can't be seen by the naked eye and then use that information to inform a diagnosis so treatment can happen immediately. Other researchers from Cedars-Sinai created a tool that can accurately predict which patients will likely experience a heart attack within five years. Additionally, the National Health Service created a tool that detects heart problems within 20 seconds while patients are getting an MRI can.

Helping patients with dementia

Another common condition among the aging population, dementia is a frightening and heartbreaking disease. Changes in your brain can happen over 20 years before any symptoms even appear, which weakens the effects of treatment.

Artificial intelligence can help healthcare employees see signs of cognitive decline that are indistinguishable to the human eye. One AI tool developed by researchers at the Stevens Institute of Technology can diagnose patients with dementia with 95 percent accuracy, which is significant since around 40 to 60 percent of adults who have dementia usually never receive a diagnosis at all. The earlier and more accurately dementia can be predicted, the earlier measures can be taken to improve patient outcomes and quality of life.

The impact of artificial intelligence is vast, but it's clear that one of its biggest benefits is making life-saving care even more tangible in the healthcare sector.

Bent Philipson is the founder of Philosophy Care, a consulting firm that provides care guidance to skilled nursing facilities throughout New York and New Jersey. Under Bent Philipson’s leadership, Philosophy Care is dedicated to providing each resident with individualized care.

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