Microsoft often touts machine-learning and big data as an area of research with the potential to revolutionize our lives. And that vision seems to now be coming to fruition in the medical field, where Microsoft’s Cortana Intelligence Suite is being used to sift through mountains of medical data.
Last year, Microsoft described how its Bing search engine, relying on machine-learning, started detecting patterns in queries that correlated with the incidence of pancreatic cancer. And just last week, Google announced its own machine-learning algorithms can now identify cancer faster and more accurately than humans. It’s advances like these that are pushing the medical field to look at AI and machine-learning algorithms as indispensable tools for the future of medicine.
Every day medical research papers are being put out revealing new insights. Unfortunately, medical professionals don’t have the time nor the capacity to keep up with what’s being published, so they have to rely on systematic reviews that summarizes all the acquired knowledge. The problem is these systematic reviews, which inform best practices and recommendations from bodies like the NHS and the US NIH, can take years to be put together.
That’s why the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is now relying on Microsoft’s Cortana Intelligence Suite for sifting through medical data. NICE uses machine-learning algorithms to look at published medical research, categorize it, and feed it to volunteer citizen scientists which then re-categorizes and processes it. This leaves researchers time to go through the final data, interpret and understand it, without having to waste time on the way. It also forms a virtuous cycle, whereby the citizen scientists feed the computer algorithm data and improve it, and the computer algorithm feeds the volunteers better data, speeding up their work.
Advances like these can significantly cut research time, cost, and the time-to-market for key innovations, drugs, or procedures, saving lives overall. It’s also a key step in making sure our doctors and researchers are putting their time to good use, and tackling medical problems, not administrative or logistical ones.
Now here’s hoping Microsoft and researchers can use some of these advancements to “solve” cancer in the next nine and a half years.