Artificial intelligence in veterinary medicine. Experts believe AI will revolutionize the practice and way veterinary medicine works
The development of artificial intelligence has affected people in many ways, improving the life experience. This makes the understanding of complex problems better and the results obtained more likely and accurate. In human medicine, AI is expected to reach more than 150 billion in the next decade.
Just as human medicine makes use of AI advances, veterinary medicine employs this type of technology to improve the lives of companion animals, particularly in areas such as radiography, triage, and disease diagnosis.
Artificial intelligence is a field of computer science that simulates human intelligence through the use of computers. This technology quickly and comprehensively analyzes very large data sets under instructions called algorithms that indicate which specific task should be performed. However, AI can only perform what it is advised to perform, so it is far from replicating human cognition and intelligence.
In 2019, the American National Academy of Medicine stated that AI “has the potential to revolutionize healthcare” and “offers unprecedented opportunities to improve patient and clinical team outcomes, reduce costs, and impact population health,” but also sought to temper expectations about AI and stated that much work remains to be done.
AI in the Diagnosis of Diseases
Dr. Krystle Reagan, a veterinary internist at the California Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and AI advocate, helped develop an algorithm to detect Addison’s disease in dogs with an accuracy rate greater than 99%. This algorithm was made up of the results of more than 1,000 blood tests from dogs treated at the university hospital, so the AI was able to use the established pattern to determine whether a new patient was developing Addison’s disease. These results were published in the journal Domestic Animal Endocrinology.
In other research, Dr. Reagan, in collaboration with Dr. Strohmer, professor of mathematics and director of the University of California’s Center for Science and Artificial Intelligence and the Center for Data Science and AI, is coding data from dogs treated at the veterinary hospital in which leptospirosis was diagnosed or suspected but later ruled out over the past decade.
Leptospirosis is a condition where timing is detrimental as the disease can cause severe kidney problems that may require dialysis, so it is important to diagnose it early. However, according to Dr. Reagan, this disease “requires two antibody tests approximately 10 days apart.” This means that a diagnosis cannot be established until 10 days after the disease, so a tool with AI technology is needed to help veterinarians give owners of sick pets a prognosis.
AI in Radiography
AI is also being used very successfully in the area of X-ray vision, as complex algorithms have been shown to be very accurate in recognizing patterns in image data. The American National Academy of Medicine states that “tasks for which current AI technology appears suitable include prioritizing and tracking findings that require early attention, comparing current and previous images, and high-throughput assessments that allow radiologists to focus on images most likely to be abnormal. Over time, it is likely that routine image interpretation will increasingly be performed using AI applications.”
Dr. Seth Wallack, veterinary radiologist and founder of the company Vetology, comments that radiological studies show results in 70% or 75%, although they are trying to be able to make a correct diagnosis of 80% in order to be able to transmit better results to pet owners. In that sense, the doctor explains that it is very important to create a feedback loop with the goal of implementing AI results to “help the machine learn and improve future AI results.”
Looking to the future
For his part, Dr. Rolan Tripp, founder of the Veterinary Future Society, believes that AI is the future of veterinary medicine and that it will revolutionize practice and the way we work, but also, as president-elect of the Veterinary Medical Ethics Society, shows concerns about ethical considerations and issues, as “this is almost virgin territory because so little has been written about it.”
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