Technology removes one more degree of humanity from hospitals: New AI can accurately predict when patients will DIE
01/29/2018 // Frances Bloomfield // Views

When will you die? It's a morbid question that no one is able to answer with certainty; but a new artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm can.

Developed by researchers from Stanford University, the AI is said to be capable of predicting the time of a patient's death with terrifying accuracy. Tests have shown it to be around 90 percent for most cases. And just how does it accomplish this? Through a form of artificial intelligence called deep learning, wherein an artificial neural network learns by sifting through massive amounts of data.

For the purposes of their study, the researchers pulled the electronic health records (EHR) of over two million child and adult patients from Stanford Hospital and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Of the patients whom the researchers found suitable for their work, the AI was able to predict the mortality of each one within the next three to twelve months. And nearly all of its predictions came true.

According to the researchers, the idea behind the AI's creation was to improve the quality of end-of-life care. Past studies have shown that roughly 80 percent of Americans would prefer to spend their final days within the comfort of their own homes. Yet only 20 percent have been able to enjoy this luxury; the other 60 percent met their end in the hospital. Thus, the researchers sought to close that gap and came up with an AI meant to be utilized alongside doctors' assessments regarding palliative care. (Related: 75 percent of young or middle-aged terminal cancer patients subjected to painful and USELESS treatments during final days.)


“The criteria for deciding which patients benefit from palliative care can be hard to state explicitly,” stated the researchers. “Our approach uses deep learning to screen patients admitted to the hospital to identify those who are most likely to have palliative care needs. The algorithm addresses a proxy problem — to predict the mortality of a given patient within the next 12 months — and use that prediction for making recommendations for palliative care referral.”

Although there's no denying how useful the AI will be in certain cases, the utilization of this technology will undoubtedly make hospitals appear more callous than they're already regarded. Such an image isn't helped by accounts of patients who've received less-than-stellar care. There have been countless horror stories throughout the years, with one of the most recent ones being that of a woman who was filmed wandering around the University Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus.

The now-viral video shows a woman near a bus stop in nothing but socks and a hospital gown. She appears distressed and disoriented as she coughs and mumbles. As per the man who shot the video, the unidentified woman was left there by several uniformed personnel who, after leaving her there by herself, returned to the hospital's emergency room. As of this writing, an investigation is still ongoing and no further details regarding the incident have been released.

Is this really what patients are expected to deal with when they check into a setting that's supposed to look after their health? Being discarded and left out in the cold? It's bad enough that patients in emergency may often have to wait for up to one hour before being attended to. Now they'll have to deal with being kicked out — whether by the decision of doctors alone or through the assistance of AI.

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