Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Healthcare and Medicine

Pravir Ishvarlal
June 2, 2023

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Healthcare and Medicine

The healthcare system is rapidly evolving and is no longer bound by the constraints of human intelligence and decision making. In the healthcare system, artificial intelligence (AI) has been identified as a tool, which can save time and subsequently speed up medical assistance. AI is used is used as a tool to diagnose various ailments and predict medical outcomes.
The South African healthcare system is struggling with a heavy burden of infectious diseases like HIV, TB, Malaria, and Influenza, and thus presenting significant challenges for healthcare workers. Nonetheless, the use of AI is assisting healthcare workers by:

    • developing more accurate diagnosis,
    • identifying high-risk patients and predicting potential complications, and
    • providing personalized treatment plans.

    This article will explore how Artificial Intelligence is transforming the healthcare system.


    In South Africa, the healthcare system is experiencing challenges, such as shortage of healthcare workers, limited resources, and high disease burden. In 2021, there were only 0.8 doctors per 1000 patients in the country, which is well below the recommended ratio of 2.5 doctors per 1000 patients set by the World Health Organization (WHO). Additionally, South Africa has the highest number of people living with HIV in the world, and the burden of tuberculosis (TB) is also remarkably high. The use of AI could assist in resolving most of these challenges by providing faster, accurate, and more personalized healthcare for patients. AI can minimize challenges experienced by healthcare workers, so that focus is on more complex situations and improving healthcare system efficiency.
    AI is already being used in medical diagnosis in several ways, with promising results. For example,

      • 1. Tuberculosis: An AI algorithm CAD4TB has shown a sensitivity of 90.2% and a specificity of 73.3% for the detection of pulmonary TB from chest X-rays.
      • 2. HIV: Researchers developed an AI algorithm called Viraemia Predictor, which predicts which individuals with HIV are likely to experience a high viral load. The model has an accuracy rate of 80%.
      • 3. Cancer Detection: AI algorithms for skin, breast, and lung cancer diagnosis have shown promising results with accuracy rates ranging from 86.4% to 94.5%, depending on the specific algorithm and type of cancer being detected.
      • 4. Heart Disease Diagnosis: Researchers developed an AI algorithm that can predict heart disease risk more accurately than traditional methods.

      A wide range of other medical diagnosis fields, including genetic testing, mental health, infectious disease detection, and emergency medicine, are now utilizing AI algorithms. In some cases, AI has identified patterns and indicators that doctors could easily have missed, enabling earlier and more precise diagnosis. This can be crucial in South Africa, where many people struggle with chronic illnesses and infectious infections that are challenging to identify and manage.


      AI is becoming an increasingly valuable tool in medical prognosis by leveraging vast amounts of patient data to forecast the future health of patients and predict diseases and possible complications. Healthcare workers are using these tools to develop individualized treatment schedules for patients. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is responsible for almost 1 in 6 deaths, and AI can assist in predicting the possibility of heart disease in individuals with high blood pressure, enabling healthcare practitioners to take preventative measures and lower the risk of heart attacks or strokes.
      Research in the South African Medical Journal also found that remission rates in various locations ranged from 13.7% to 22.4%, creating a significant challenge for the nation’s healthcare system. AI could save the South African healthcare system billions of rands through improved disease prediction and prevention that can identify patients that are at risk of readmission, enabling healthcare practitioners to provide pro¬-active care and avoid needless hospitalization. One example of this is the use of AI to identify patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who are at a considerable risk of hospitalization. This is crucial in South Africa, where there are limited medical resources and overcrowding challenges.
      As alluded to earlier, AI is shaking things up and significantly improving the current system by enabling doctors to predict diseases before they appear and discover the most effective treatments for everyone.


      AI can significantly change how patients are treated. Healthcare providers can create personalized treatment regimens for patients that take into consideration their medical histories, genetics, and other key factors with the aid of AI systems. Patients stand to gain from more specialized care that is tailored to their needs and produces better outcomes.

      AI has the potential to assist doctors in identifying the most efficient treatment for groups of patients. Through analyzing extensive amounts of patient data, AI can detect patterns and forecast which treatments are probable to be the most successful for diverse patient groups, even optimizing medication dosages to lessen the possibility of negative side effects. This can assist in enhancing treatment results and diminishing the overall expense of healthcare. For instance, AI can be employed to recognize the most effective chemotherapy procedures for patients with varying forms of cancer.
      AI presents a range of opportunities to support South Africa’s medical treatment initiatives. AI solutions can be used to optimize the National Health Insurance (NHI) and Health Information System (HIS) programmes, by analyzing patient data to identify patterns and trends, track system performance, and enhance treatment regimens. Moreover, the eHealth Strategy can also be improved using AI to facilitate remote patient monitoring, allowing healthcare personnel to administer care beyond the confines of hospitals. This is of paramount importance in our country, where a considerable number of patients live in underprivileged or rural areas and may lack access to healthcare facilities.
      In closing, AI is a game changer for medicine, offering unparalleled possibilities to revolutionize healthcare delivery. Combining the power of data analytics, machine learning, and personalized medicine, AI can improve treatment plans, enhance diagnoses, and optimize patient outcomes. The future of healthcare is looking better than ever thanks to advances in AI. It is time to give medicine a dose of AI and unlock a world of new possibilities and better health outcomes.