LOS ANGELES – Nearly 5 million Americans are living with congestive heart failure. More than a half million people will be diagnosed with it this year. More than half of those people will die within five years.
If you were diagnosed with congestive heart failure, would you want to know how long you have left to live? How could doctors use that information to help you survive longer? Now, doctors are turning to artificial intelligence for the answers.
Stewart Seaward spends several hours a week working out in the gym. Ironically, he was on a treadmill a few years ago when he found out he had a heart condition.
“I went to my family physician and he put me on a treadmill and said, 'Looks like you’ve had a heart attack,” Seaward said.
Every day, Dr. Eric Adler, a cardiologist, UC San Diego Health, sees patients like Stewart, who are suffering with congestive heart failure.
“My day job is deciding who needs heart transplants. And you can imagine, we don’t want to be wrong,” Adler said.
Two months, two years, longer? Until now, cardiologists would compare tests themselves and make their best educated guess.
“We don’t have a crystal ball, and that’s often the most difficult situation we’re put into,” Adler said.
Avi wanted to know. In the ICU and suffering from congestive heart failure, Yagil, a physicist, came up with the idea of using the same machine learning technology that Amazon and Google use to learn about their users and patients like himself.
“It takes the information we have, and it looks at the relationship between them,” Adler said.
The algorithm creates a risk score from eight variables already collected for the majority of patients.
“Are you going to live longer than three months and are you going to live longer than two years,” Adler said.
Giving doctors a multi-dimensional picture of each patient, the algorithm achieved an 88% success rate compared to just 50% before.
“That changes what resources we apply to them,” Adler said.
Stewart’s working out hard, hoping to add years to his life and says the more information available the better.
Adler and his team believes this is just the tip of the iceberg for using AI in the medical field. The best part? This algorithm can run on any laptop.
But before it can be distributed to other hospitals, they’re working on ways to protect the information. They say, just like all of your health information, there should be no way for anyone outside the hospital to access it.
Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and Rusty Reed, Videographer.