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The future of artificial intelligence in gastroenterology

Dr. Guha provides an inside look at the role of AI tools and the hurdles they have to overcome.
Smart health care using technology
Smart health care using technology

By Sushovan Guha, MD, PhD, University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix

The fourth industrial revolution is upon us. It was eight years ago that IBM’s Watson supercomputer handily defeated Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings. The showdown was not merely a well-publicized stunt with a $1 million prize for IBM, but proof that we were a big step closer to a world in which intelligent machines will understand and respond to humans. 

We’re now in an era that some consider an AI renaissance, with enormous amounts of computing power — unimaginable only a few decades ago — now available to institutions and even individual researchers. Machine learning algorithms and AI are performing feats once considered to be exclusive domains for humans. 

In gastroenterology, AI can now identify bleeders, colorectal polyps, and angioectasias at impressive rates of accuracy and can be deployed for pathological evaluation of lesions at the microscopic level as well. The AGA Center for GI Innovation and Technology recognizes AI’s potential and we are committed to exploring how it can help us improve patient outcomes and potentially reduce health care costs, physician workload and complications/miss rates.

While promising, AI’s role in health care is not necessarily smooth sailing from this point on. One potential barrier to adoption could come from clinicians. For there to be widespread adoption of AI tools, providers and patients will need to understand the connection between decision-making in traditional health care settings and the use of new advanced technologies. We’ll talk about these issues at the AGA 2019 Tech Summit in April — and industry will share their perspectives on the application of AI in the endoscope, auxiliary devices and software programs. 

Surely one reservation of industry is whether the regulatory environment can move at the same pace as technology. The FDA is speeding up its regulatory process to accommodate the new realities of AI in health care. “AI holds enormous promise for the future of medicine,” wrote FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, in his blog dated Aug. 29, 2018. “We’re actively developing a new regulatory framework to promote innovation in this space and support the use of AI-based technologies,” Gottlieb continued. To address the issue, the FDA developed its Software Precertification (Pre-Cert) Pilot Program, which is entering its test phase in 2019. 

Along with fostering development and increasing acceptance of these advances in the medical profession, AGA firmly encourages gastroenterologists to take a more active interest in this field. A good opportunity to do so will be at the AGA Tech Summit, to be held April 10-12 in San Francisco. To learn more about the Tech Summit, visit

Dr. Guha is a member of the general committee for AGA’s Center for GI Innovation and Technology and will be a moderator at AGA’s 2019 Tech Summit.

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