Advancements in AI Health Technology Targeting Unrecognized Health Issues

As technology advances, our insight into our health also progresses. Lately, more and more companies promoting the use of artificial intelligence in their apps and products have been advertising. There are mirrors that claim to tell us our estimated age and apps that examine the blood flow beneath our skin to measure our blood pressure. But is AI-powered health tracking actually improving our health yet?

Beyond the headlines, AI’s impact on consumer wellness is currently less clear. The increasing number of apps and trackers promising to disclose things about your health that you wouldn’t otherwise know may leave you feeling you’re constantly with some kind of symptom or health metric that needs to be tracked down — provided they’re accurate readings in the first place.

The impact of AI health tracking on consumer wellness right now is uncertain. The growing quantity of apps and trackers that pledge to reveal details about your health that you would not know otherwise could possibly create persistent feelings of having symptoms or health metrics that need tracking, assuming the readings are accurate to begin with.

How useful all of this will depend on what you’re seeking, whether the tech can derive meaningful information from health data, and what you do with that information afterward. Should it follow a more traditional path of activity trackers, it may indeed give a boost to your health. According to a study published in The Lancet in 2022, activity tracking has provided some substantive health benefits.

“The conversations seem to end with the tech,” Dr. Maame Yaa Yiadom, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Stanford University who leads a lab of AI research. The tech is “only as good as it helps people through a journey with their health care providers,” Yiadom said. This includes screening, making a diagnosis, coming up with a treatment plan and getting to a better health state, she added.

Can you find the ‘silent killer’ with an app?

Together by Renee is an app created by Dr. Renee Dua, a kidney specialist in the San Fernando Valley. The app uses AI to achieve some of the things that previous tech has long been managing, like keeping track of medication and providing certain heart health readings, including blood pressure, often dubbed the “silent killer” for its lack of obvious symptoms. The app also measures “mental fitness” through vocal tracking, enabling AI to glean health information. “By listening to the intonations in the sound of your voice, we’re able to determine if you’re anxious or depressed,” Dua said.

AI is exploring uncharted health-tracking waters

An app that tells you how much you’re coughing likely wasn’t at the top of your widget wish list, but it’s a great example of how AI is expanding pattern recognition and applying it into more wellness areas. Cough Tracking, made by Hyfe AI, marks your coughing occurrences throughout the day and may be useful for detecting underlying health problems.

AI may also enhance the usefulness of activity trackers, with sleep tracking with Whoop as an example. January is another app using AI to provide insights into your nutrition and blood sugar when paired with a continuous glucose monitor.

How hospitals are using AI to catch heart attacks

To close in on crucial moments, Yiadom and her lab built a predictive AI model to help emergency department staff “get the right patients the right tests” before diagnosis. The predictive model has outperformed emergency room staff in terms of how many heart attacks it missed. When the predictive model is paired with a human, it excelled even more.

So you have more health information. Now what?

According to Dr. Ethan Goh, a physician and artificial intelligence researcher with Stanford University, the significant gap in what people are dealing with and ways to manage it justifies the continued investment in technology. What’s more, AI tools like large language models provide an opportunity for “increased personalization and engagement.” Additionally, the utilization of other information to add context to the values received is required to benefit from health apps and other wellness technology.

We could conclude that for now, the usefulness of AI for your health isn’t determined by the data or metrics themselves, but what you do with them.

Editors’ note: CNET is using an AI engine to help create some stories. For more, see┬áthis post.

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