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Use of AI on the Rise in Sports and Healthcare

November 6, 2019

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Trust in artificial intelligence (AI) is gaining ground in more than one sector. After healthcare and prevention, it started spreading to tennis courts. Novac Djokovic is one of the best tennis players in the world, but it definitely took some time and effort to reach the top. His success was not just a result of daily training and talent, as you might think. He also resorted to the use of new technologies to stay on top.

Novak Djokovic won Wimbledon by keeping the ball rolling against tennis titan Roger Federer for exactly 4 hours and 57 minutes. While the match was considered by many to be one of the most beautiful ever, it also sparked some questions. Many were eager to know what lies behind Djokovic’s success. The answer came as a surprise. It was not just a feat of strength. It was also the use of AI that helped Djokovic prevail over Federer

If AI can make or break a tennis match among peers of equal strength, as Djokovic and Federer seem to be, it might also have an impact on healthcare.

Where Healthcare and Tennis Meet

The AI software that Djokovic used to train before Wimbledon is developed by a father and his son. It’s called RightChain and it is, basically, a software that uses AI to optimize, plan and analyze a tennis player’s game. The same software program is also used by big companies like Colgate, Ford, and Coca-Cola. While these companies use the software to develop new ways to move their products from the assembly line to the customers’ shopping carts, things are different in tennis. AI delivers a detailed analysis of how players and their opponents behave on the field. 

Based on this data, tennis players can improve their movements, make the most of their strengths and even use their opponents’ faults to their advantage. AI might have made a difference in the match Djokovic played against Federer. It might also make a difference in healthcare. 

When it comes to tennis, the software analyses all performance indicators in great detail – from field errors, serves and opponents’ location, to ball changes and serve returns. Keywords are then extracted and used to build a new effective strategy. Could a similar system deliver comparable results in healthcare?

AI Adoption and Investments Are on the Rise in Healthcare

Studies show the number of health companies that successfully implemented an AI strategy increased by 88% in 2019, compared with 2018. Nine out of 10 health care managers are convinced that their investments in AI technology will pay off sooner than they expected when they first made the decision to invest. Half of them are even more optimistic and expect a return on investment in the next three years. Health care leaders also believe there is a growing need for investment in AI, as technologies are getting better and better.

Half of those who took part in the survey anticipate they will see real cost savings in the following three years, as a consequence of their investments in AI. By comparison, the 2018 figure was much lower: 31%. It seems that confidence in AI is growing and that new plans for adoption and investments are being made in healthcare. As more hospitals anticipate positive results, the future of AI seems to be brighter than ever.

AI Does Not Come Without Moral Dilemmas

New technologies have always been at the center of ethical dilemmas, and AI is no exception. While AI may help a tennis player train and improve, it might also exacerbate some lingering problems in our society, like discrimination. Previous studies discovered large gender and racial bias in AI algorithms used by tech giants, so we have good reason to believe that AI and machine learning are far from being perfect. But does that mean that we shouldn’t use new technologies to fight disease? 

AI might lead us to safer, more effective and cheaper ways of treating patients. And in turn, that might bring us closer to our goal of providing better care for all.