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Artificial intelligence has been around for half a century, but it has only recently become a real player in the healthcare space. Harjinder Sandhu, the CEO and founder of SayKara, says that’s all down to data.

“The data never really existed” for AI to take off, Sandhu said on a panel about AI and the future of healthcare at the 2018 GeekWire Summit. “In healthcare specifically, if you look back 20 years, virtually every medical record was on paper.”

Sandhu was joined on stage by Michael Calhoun, CEO and co-founder of medical imaging analysis company Mindshare Medical, and Anisha Sood, a partner at Echo Health Ventures. Sandhu said the data barrier for AI has tumbled down in the past few years.

“Now every device is capturing data. Everybody’s using electronic medical records, all the data is getting captured in electronic form,” he said.

And the applications for AI could be just as varied and far-reaching as the vast swaths of data involved in the healthcare system, everything from predicting which patients will get sick to assisting doctors in the operating room.

But Sandhu and Calhoun agreed that, for now, AI isn’t anywhere near replacing doctors or other humans in the healthcare world.

“It may happen eventually, for a lot of use cases. It’s not happening right now. So the way to go about it, if you’re a startup in this space, is find ways to add value to the doctors today,” Sandhu said.

Watch the full panel discussion of AI’s role in healthcare above and read all our coverage from the 2018 GeekWire Summit.

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