It could’ve been a huge triumph for technology.
BlueDot’s AI (artificial intelligence) software spotted the early COVID-19 outbreak before it even had a name.
In fact, its system picked up the pattern of “unusual pneumonia” cases in Wuhan, China … nine days before the World Health Organization sounded the alarm in December 2019.
Working just as designed, the AI sifted through countless sources. It flagged the infectious disease in real time.
It even went a step further. Shortly after detecting COVID-19, BlueDot took a look at travel data. It calculated the most likely cities to experience outbreaks next.
And it was right.
COVID-19 cases spiked where BlueDot said they would: in Bangkok, Tokyo, Hong Kong and eight other cities.
But given the global nature of the pandemic today, it doesn’t seem like all the data and alerts helped governments and businesses stem the spread.
“COVID has shown us that we have a data-access problem at the national and international level that prevents us from addressing burning problems in national health emergencies.”
That’s what Isaac Kohane — head of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Biomedical Informatics — said at an online medical conference in July. He makes a good point.
Even with countries sharing data, tracking the virus was still difficult because of major differences in technology from place to place.
According to the Harvard Gazette, we’re still using fax machines here in the U.S. to send some reports to public health centers.
There’s still a lot of room for improvement.
But the good news is that we’re still in the early days. AI systems and infrastructure are continuing to upgrade. We’ll soon see massive improvements in medicine around the world.
AI could genuinely stop the next outbreak.
And the opportunity for investors as this plays out is enormous.
AI Isn’t Yet Ready for the Real World
The COVID-19 case is one of many good examples of the state of AI in medicine in 2021. We can see that advancements will be revolutionary … but they’re still on the ground floor today.
Take a look at how AI is used in medical imaging … AI tech can recognize and flag many more potential ailments in scans and photos than a person can in the same timeframe.
But in real-world practice, it can’t take the place of medical professionals — not yet. That’s because slow (or no) internet and low-resolution images from old equipment can make AI analysis impossible.
When Google launched an AI to help analyze retinal scans at several clinics in Thailand, we got a firsthand look at this. The technology problems became clear right away.
Slow internet made uploading the images into the system a long process. And AI rejected more than a fifth of the images for quality issues, forcing doctors to analyze the scans themselves.
“They’ve been waiting here since 6 a.m.,” said one nurse of the long lines, “and for the first two hours we could only screen 10 patients.”
Until reliable, fast internet and up-to-date equipment is more available everywhere, these AI systems aren’t reaching their full potential in rural areas or developing nations.
These types of kinks will be worked out in the next few years. And we could see enormous benefits.
In the Thailand test run, the government’s goal was to scan people’s retinas for early signs of diabetes-related blindness. If caught early, patients could see untold health improvements.
And although we’re not quite there yet, it’s giving us a huge investing opportunity…
There’s Still Time to Profit
AI has already become a huge component of hospitals and health care, as you can see in the chart below. And that’s with all the current problems.
Imagine what will happen in a few years when all those issues are resolved.
Market researcher Grand View Research believes that the market for AI in health care could reach $31.3 billion by 2025. That’s up from only $5.9 billion in 2020 — a 430% increase.
There’s too much invested in AI today to slow down. There’s no stopping this train.
And as we’ve shown you, our health care system is about to be even more loaded than ever as baby boomers age. They’ll force the health care sector to expand astronomically. And AI advancements will become crucial in easing the burden.
And we expect one of our favorite exchange-traded funds to benefit. The Vanguard Health Care ETF (NYSE: VHT) carries a basket of biotech companies, equipment manufacturers and management providers.
In other words: It carries the companies most likely to benefit as this revolution ramps up. These are the companies that will sell the equipment and systems to help doctors work with AI.
If you haven’t already checked out VHT, we recommend you do so today.
In the meantime, we’ll be following these developments in American Investor Today.
Managing Editor, American Investor Today
P.S. Wall Street veteran Charles Mizrahi expects the AI revolution to reach more than just health care. He published a pair of reports for his Alpha Investor subscribers back in 2019 that shows subscribers how they can profit … from AI in every sector. Click here to see how you can sign up.