Editor’s Spot: Exploring AI in Health Care
By Judith Riddle
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 25 No. 8 P. 6

As technology continues to advance in every industry and profession in the United States and around the world, dietitians will see ongoing development and implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) in health care that they potentially could apply to dietetics in the near future.

AI is a specialty in computer science that focuses on creating systems that replicate the thought processes and decision-making abilities of human beings via computer algorithms. These systems accomplish this amazing feat by consuming and processing tons of data and learning from their past to streamline and improve future outcomes. This technology could prove a boon for RDs when creating personalized diet and nutrition care plans for patients with diabetes, heart disease, and other health conditions.

If you didn’t know, the groundwork for creating machines that think and perform tasks like humans was laid in the early 1900s, when Japanese professor Makoto Nishimura invented the first robot named Gakutensoku that opened and closed its eyes, moved its neck, and smiled, and when John W. Belcher of Newton, Massachusetts, created a female automaton that could walk, talk, sing, and write.

In the 1950s, AI was born when Arthur Samuel, PhD, a computer scientist, developed programs to play championship level checkers and chess, and when computer science pioneer John McCarthy, PhD, coined the term “artificial intelligence” in association with a workshop he taught at Dartmouth College, and created the first programming language for AI research used today.

Currently, AI algorithms are used by smartphones, digital assistants like Siri and Alexa, social media platforms, navigation apps, search engines (eg, Google, Yahoo), self-driving cars, and online shopping and e-commerce platforms. They’re also used for creating robots in the aerospace, manufacturing, and hospitality industries; gaming; advertising and marketing; and health care.

Hospitals and clinics use robotics and predictive software programs for early disease diagnosis that can analyze patterns and data to foresee when and how patients are likely to develop specific diseases. They also use programs to track disease development and determine new drug applications and harmful interactions among different medications.

At present, clinicians are using and further exploring AI algorithms and applications in cardiovascular medicine, diabetes management, renal health, eating disorders and disordered eating, and weight management. And while there’s still a way to go to further develop AI applications in these specialties, RDs potentially can use what’s available and look forward to future developments to improve patient care.

To learn more about AI research and its applications in health care, turn to “Artificial Intelligence in MNT,” on page 38.

Also in this issue are articles on supplement use and cancer, children and sugar consumption, lifestyle medicine, and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. Please enjoy this month’s edition!

— Judith Riddle, Editor