The 21st century is rapidly becoming known as the digital age, yet it very well could be called the machine age given that its most prominent feature has been the rise of AI capable of helping us in our everyday lives. Whether it's serving as a home assistant or helping businesses automate more of their workforce, AI has been slowly but steadily ingraining itself into the way we do business and interact with one another for years now. Only recently has AI developed to the point where it's becoming a viable tool for surgeons when it comes to increasing positive outcomes, however, a trend worth exploring.

Can AI-assisted surgery increase positive outcomes for patients? Here's why intelligent machines could be the key to the future of the healthcare industry.

Hospitals are already using AI

To say that AI will come to reshape the healthcare industry is a bit of an understatement; after all, hospitals are already using AI in their daily operations and many medical researchers view intelligent machines as promising supplements to human medial expertise. While AI has a wide range of applications, its largely been used to cut down on the costs of providing healthcare so that providers can manage more patients than ever before. Flagler Hospital's famous use of AI to create new clinical pathways while slicing costs grabbed national headlines, for instance, because it demonstrated how this technology is already a major part of the healthcare industry.

In the future, however, we'll see AI used less and less for management and streamlining purposes and more of it in the operating room. That's because modern surgeons can benefit tremendously from the inclusion of AI tech in their operations; some early trials have already produced great results that demonstrate positive patient outcomes can be sizable increased with the help of AI assistants. Microsurgical procedures in the future could very well become dominated by intelligent software that helps human experts find what they're looking for to save patients quicker.

Startup companies and products like Caresyntax's qvident illustrate that web-based AI applications can be used by surgeons to prepare for surgery and to monitor and maintain patient data after a procedure has been conducted. Making the management process as easy as possible for surgeons is imperative, as it will allow them to spend more time in the operating room and focusing on unique cases that demand exceptional time and energy. AI doesn't just have to sit on the sidelines, though, as a number of AI-assisted surgeries have already been conducted to prove it has a role in the operational process.

Robots are already doing surgery

We may not be at the point where AI can conduct an entire operation on its own, but we're certainly at the point where robots are already doing surgery alongside of human companions. Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands recently raised eyebrows by using an AI-assisted surgery robot to suture blood vessels, demonstrating that machines can get their hands dirty, too. As one of the world's first super-microsurgery operations, it drew a tremendous amount of positive press and demonstrated that AI's applications in the field of healthcare are nearly limitless.

Nonetheless, AI has to overcome a few hurdles before it can take on entire surgical operations on its own without causing medical malpractice lawsuits. The question of "would you trust a robot with a scalpel?" has plagued the public consciousness since AI became advanced enough to earn a spot in hospital operations, and it's not going anywhere anytime soon. Proponents of intelligent machines in the healthcare industry will need to work hard to ensure that patients aren't terrified by the rise of robots in the hospital, as the image of cold, uncaring machines tending to your when you're ill doesn't sit well with many paying patients.

A comprehensive review of machine learning, robotics, and the future of surgery nonetheless demonstrates that real progress is possible when it comes to AI increasing positive outcomes for patients. Dispelling common misconceptions (like the idea that robots are conducting entire surgeries on their own) will become an important part of helping AI become a legitimate part of the healthcare industry. When patients gradually come to see AI and robots in the hospital as mere tools used by human experts to increase positive patient outcomes, they'll become much more willing to trust doctors and nurses who work hand in hand with machines.

Despite all the positive press AI has been drumming up for itself in the autonomous vehicle and data analysis industries, the healthcare industry is one of the areas most impacted by its disruption. AI-assisted surgery has already occurred and will only grow more complex in the future as the technology driving it forward becomes better and more widely accessible. Don't be surprised if you see a robot staring down at you from the operating table in the future - AI-assisted surgery is rapidly proving itself capable of bolstering positive patient outcomes.