Artificial intelligence (AI) is beginning to outperform doctors in correctly diagnosing ear infections.
A new study by the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary has found that an AI tool (OtoDx) was more effective than human doctors at correctly diagnosing ear infections.
The AI was 80% to 95% accurate, while human physicians were 59% to 65% accurate.
“OtoDX was more than 95% accurate in diagnosing an ear infection in a set of 22 test images compared to 65% accuracy among a group of clinicians consisting of ENTs, pediatricians, and primary-care doctors, who reviewed the same images. When tested in a dataset of more than 600 inner ear images, the AI model had a diagnostic accuracy of more than 80%,” says ScienceDaily.
The AI was trained with 639 images of tympanic membranes on children under the age of 18 and taught to tag them as normal, infected, or having liquid behind the eardrum.
Why it’s news
The survey suggests the continued utility of AI applications in health care. AI applications have been proposed for identifying rare diseases, data protection, dosage error reduction, administration, and robot-assisted surgery, and have already been deployed in numerous capacities for retail, logistics, and identification capacities.
OtoDx’s success rate serves as evidence that AI can be helpful in the treatment of challenging diseases and that it can be trained to diagnose complicated conditions human doctors struggle with.
“There’s a lot of excitement right now about how artificial intelligence (AI) is going to change health care. And many AI technologies are cropping up to help people streamline administrative and clinical health care processes…The field of health AI is seemingly wide—covering wellness to diagnostics to operational technologies—but it is also narrow in that health AI applications typically perform just a single task,” says Harvard Business Review.
What’s not being said
AI and automation do create the fear that such technologies will be used to phase out human workers in favor of unpaid computers. OtoDx’s developers suggest it will not replace doctors though. The application’s developers see it as a tool that doctors will be able to use alongside their skills to help them identify challenging diagnoses.
ScienceDaily reports that OtoDx is being developed with a smartphone app with a mini-otoscope attachment that would attach to a phone’s camera, allowing them to take photographs directly into the app and have a diagnostic within seconds.
“Ear infections are incredibly common in children yet frequently misdiagnosed, leading to delays in care or unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions. This model won’t replace the judgment of clinicians but can serve to supplement their expertise and help them be more confident in their treatment decisions,” says study author Dr. Matthew Crowson.