AI Makes Waves in Gastroenterology—Can It Help Democratize Care?

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Artificial intelligence has emerged as a valuable tool in diagnostic imaging, where machine-learning algorithms applied to image-based scans are helping physicians rapidly and accurately detect and diagnose diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, cancer, and stroke. Now, AI is branching into video endoscopy and could help level the playing field for patients with a number of GI disorders. Among the companies leading the way are Medtronic, Iterative Scopes, and Odin Vision.

Artificial intelligence is making rapid inroads into healthcare and the impact could be game changing for many clinical specialties. Although some physicians have expressed concerns, including fears that an overreliance on AI assistance could ultimately erode physicians’ skills and confidence in their own clinical judgment (see “At EuroPCR: AI’s Adoption Challenge,” MedTech Strategist, June 1, 2022), the rapidity with which machine-learning tools are being integrated into devices and clinical care, and the positive outcomes demonstrated to date, suggest AI will likely have an integral role to play in the future.

One of the first specialties to feel AI’s effects is radiology, which has the advantage of offering an immense volume of imaging data with which to train AI algorithms as well as well-established computer-based workflows. Putting AI to use in the diagnostic imaging arena helps address some longstanding unmet needs, potentially reducing physician fatigue, increasing scan reading efficiency and accuracy, and hopefully improving early disease detection and patient outcomes.

Diagnostic imaging has already seen an influx of machine-learning algorithms capable of rapidly and accurately scanning and interpreting patient imaging studies, in some cases surpassing the capabilities of seasoned radiologists. Now, developers are branching out, bringing AI into the endoscopy suite, where real-time, machine-learning video image analysis during and after colonoscopy and other GI endoscopy procedures could bring many of the same advantages to the field of gastroenterology, helping improve care for patients with colorectal cancer (CRC) and other GI diseases.


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