Open Access

Computational healthcare: Present and future perspectives (Review)

  • Authors:
    • Ayumu Asai
    • Masamitsu Konno
    • Masateru Taniguchi
    • Andrea Vecchione
    • Hideshi Ishii
  • View Affiliations

  • Published online on: September 23, 2021
  • Article Number: 1351
  • Copyright: © Asai et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution License.

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Artificial intelligence (AI) has been developed through repeated new discoveries since around 1960. The use of AI is now becoming widespread within society and our daily lives. AI is also being introduced into healthcare, such as medicine and drug development; however, it is currently biased towards specific domains. The present review traces the history of the development of various AI‑based applications in healthcare and compares AI‑based healthcare with conventional healthcare to show the future prospects for this type of care. Knowledge of the past and present development of AI‑based applications would be useful for the future utilization of novel AI approaches in healthcare.

1. Introduction

‘Big data’, large datasets that are difficult to record, store and analyze with conventional data management systems, has been accumulating in various fields in recent years with regard to the development of communication and sensor technology. The advances in technology regarding big data have emerged that the use of big data is expected to create new avenues of research. However, the overall trend of big data is difficult to understand based on general information processing by humans; thus, information processing by artificial intelligence (AI) has also attracted attention (1). In general, industries have succeeded in improving sales and work efficiency and decreasing costs using big data and AI (2).

In healthcare, the creation of new knowledge and the improvement in diagnostic and therapeutic outcomes are expected through the utilization of big data pertaining to life science information and medical data (3). In fact, the implementation of AI in healthcare has been actively investigated; however, it has not been used in a widespread manner due to a number of problems (4).

The present review looks back at the history of AI and AI-based applications, compares the advantages and the issues of conventional healthcare and AI-based healthcare, and considers the future development of AI-based applications.

2. Historical view of the clinical application of computational support

In the 1950s, McCarthy et al (5) proposed AI as a prediction machine (hardware or software that exhibits behavior which appears intelligence by predicting associations between variables). Samuel (6) developed machine learning in 1959, which triggered the first AI boom (Fig. 1). In this period, the discrimination of cells in microscopic images started to be investigated using machine learning (7,8). In the 1970s, progress with AI was temporarily halted, as the AI was only able to solve simple problems. By contrast, in the same period, expert systems consisting of knowledge bases and inference engines were invented, and tools for diagnosis in specific fields such as MYCIN and INTERNIST-1 were developed (9,10). Subsequently, deep learning was proposed by Dechter (11) in 1986 and a convolutional neural network was proposed by LeCun et al (12) in 1988, leading to the second AI boom. In this boom, to allow adaptation to real-world problems, experts in various fields educated AI using parameters, including marketing, healthcare and life science data. In addition, surgical robots began to flourish during this period. Among them, PUMA 200 was developed to automatically identify the appropriate location of lesions in computed tomography-guided brain tumor biopsies and was the first robot used for assisting human neurosurgery (13). AESOP was a breakthrough in robotic surgery when introduced in 1994, as it was the first laparoscopic camera holder to be approved by the FDA (14). Moreover, in 2000, the da Vinci Surgical System obtained FDA approval for use in general laparoscopic procedures and became the first operative surgical robot in the US (15). In 2005, a surgical technique for the da Vinci Surgical System was documented in canine and cadaveric models called transoral robotic surgery; this was the only FDA-approved robot to perform head and neck surgery at the time (16).

In addition, medications based on a computational analysis of the crystal structure of molecules were developed (17,18). The ROBODOC Surgical System was introduced and revolutionized orthopedic surgery by being able to assist with hip replacement surgeries. This was the first surgical robot to be approved for use in humans by the FDA in 2008(19).

Thus, during the second AI boom, several tools were successfully developed. However, it was difficult for humans to provide the information that an AI needs to solve complex problems, and it was difficult for the machines of that time to learn the vast level of information available.

With the advent of deep learning in 2006 and the development of computers and communication equipment, the interest in AI was renewed (20,21). In particular, the historical victory of a deep learning program by utilizing a convolutional neural network, a deep learning method in image recognition, in an image recognition contest called the ImageNet Large Scale Visual Recognition Challenge (ILSVRC) triggered the third AI boom (22). As a result, image recognition has become the most applied AI-based technology in the clinical setting. When considering clinical applications based on image recognition using AI, IB Neuro is a diagnostic software used to detect brain tumors by MRI, and this was approved by the FDA in 2008 as the first AI-based application in humans (23). In addition, IntelliSite was approved by the FDA as the first whole-slide imaging system in 2017 (24,25). Thus, a number of AI-based applications were approved by the FDA in the third AI boom. The number of approved applications for diagnostics, mainly image recognition, increased from 11 in 2008-2015 to 135 in 2016-2020 (Table I) (23,26). In addition to applications for diagnosis, applications for treatment are also being approved by the FDA, with three AI-based applications to support treatment processes such as radiotherapy being approved in 2018-2019 (23,26).

Table I

FDA approved AI-based applications.

Table I

FDA approved AI-based applications.

ApplicationsCompanyPurposeMedical specialtyFDA Cleared
IB NeuroImaging Biometrics, LLCDiagnosisNeuroradiology2008
Pathwork Tissue of Origin Test Kit-FFPEPathwork Diagnostics, Inc.DiagnosisPathology2010
DeltaView Model 2.1Riverain TechnologiesDiagnosisRadiology2011
AlphaPoint Imaging SoftwareRadLogics, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2012
BodyGuardian Remote Monitoring SystemPreventiceFollow-upCardiology2012
ClearRead +ConfirmRiverain TechnologiesDiagnosisRadiology2012
Temporal ComparisonRiverain TechnologiesDiagnosisRadiology2012
cvi42Circle Cardiovascular Imaging, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2014
Ahead 100BrainScopeDiagnosisNeurology2014
Lung Density AnalysisImbio LLCDiagnosisRadiology2014
Vitrea CT Lung Density Analysis SoftwareVital Images, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2015
Stroke VCARGE Medical SystemsDiagnosisNeuroradiology2016
QbCheckQbTech ABDiagnosisPsychiatry2016
Steth IOStratoscientific, Inc.DiagnosisGeneral medicine2016
ClearRead CTRiverain TechnologiesDiagnosisRadiology2016
Arterys Cardio DLArterys IncDiagnosisRadiology2016
CT CoPilotZepMed, LLC.DiagnosisNeuroradiology2016
ClearView cCADClearView Diagnostics Inc.DiagnosisOncology2016
Arterys Cardio DLArterys Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2017
Cantab MobileCambridge Cognition, Ltd.DiagnosisNeurology2017
Lung Nodule Assessment and Comparison OptionPhilips Medical SystemsDiagnosisRadiology2017
EnsoSleepEnsoData, Inc.DiagnosisNeurology2017
AmCAD-USAmCad BioMed CorporationDiagnosisRadiology2017
QuantXQuantitative Insights, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2017
Arterys Oncology DLArterys IncDiagnosisRadiology2017
Rooti Rx System ECG Event Recorder, Rooti Link APP SoftwareRooti Labs, Ltd.DiagnosisCardiology2017
BioFluxBiotricity, Inc.DiagnosisCardiology2017
CNeuro cMRICombinostics OyDiagnosisNeuroradiology2018
IdxIDx LLCDiagnosisOphthalmology2018
WAVE Clinical PlatformExcel Medical Electronics, LLCFollow-upHospital monitoring2018
Insight BDSiemens HealthineersDiagnosisRadiology2018
Viz LVO (ContaCT)Viz. AI, Inc.DiagnosisNeuroradiology2018
DM-DensityDensitas, Inc.DiagnosisOncology2018
OsteoDetectImagen Technologies, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2018
Quantib BrainQuantib BVDiagnosisNeuroradiology2018
Guardian Connect SystemMedtronicDiagnosisEndocrinology2018
PowerLook Density Assessment SoftwareICAD Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2018
Viz CTPViz. ai, inc.DiagnosisNeuroradiology2018
NeuralBotNeural Analytics, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2018
OsteoDetectImagen TechnologiesDiagnosisRadiology2018
EchoMD Automated Ejection Fraction SoftwareBay Labs, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2018
MindMotion GOMindMaze SAFollow-upOrthopedics2018
LungQThirona CorporationDiagnosisRadiology2018
HealthCCSZebra Medical Vision Ltd.DiagnosisRadiology2018
EchoMD Automated Ejection Fraction SoftwareBay Labs, Inc.DiagnosisCardiology2018
DreaMedDreaMed Diabetes, LtdFollow-upEndocrinology2018
ProFound™ AI Software V2.1iCAD, IncDiagnosisRadiology2018
BriefCase- ICHAidoc Medical, Ltd.DiagnosisNeuroradiology2018
AmCAD-UT Detection 2.2AmCAD BioMed CorporationDiagnosisEndocrinology2018
Arterys MICAArterys, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2018
ECG AppApple, Inc.Follow-upCardiology2018
Volpara Imaging SoftwareVolpara Health Technologies LimitedDiagnosisOncology2018
AI-ECG PlatformShenzhen Carewell Electronics, Ltd.DiagnosisCardiology2018
FibriCheckQompium NVFollow-upCardiology2018
Irregular Rhythm Notification FeatureApple, Inc.DiagnosisCardiology2018
RightEye Vision SystemRightEye, LLCDiagnosisOphthalmology2018
AccipiolxMaxQ-Al, Ltd.DiagnosisRadiology2018
icobrainIcometrix NVDiagnosisRadiology2018
FluoroShield™Omega Medical Imaging, LLCTreatmentRadiology2018
Vitrea CT Brain PerfusionVital Images, Inc.DiagnosisNeuroradiology2018
SubtlePETSubtle Medical, Inc.DiagnosisNeuroradiology2018
FerriSmart Analysis SystemResonance Health Analysis Service Pty, Ltd.DiagnosisRadiology2018
EmbraceEmpatica SrlFollow-upNeurology2018
Quantib NDQuantib BVDiagnosisNeuroradiology2018
iSchemaView RAPIDiSchemaView, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2018
Study WatchVerily Life Sciences LLCFollow-upCardiology2019
cmTriageCureMetrix, Inc.DiagnosisOncology2019
Thoracic VCAR with GSI Pulmonary PerfusionGE Medical SystemsDiagnosisRadiology2019
KardiaAIAliveCor, IncFollow-upCardiology2019
Loop SystemSpry Health, Inc.Follow-upHospital monitoring2019
RhythmAnalyticsBiofourmis Singapore Pte, Ltd.Follow-upCardiology2019
Bone VcarGE Medical SystemsDiagnosisRadiology2019
Aidoc Briefcase- ICH and PE triageAidoc Medical, Ltd.DiagnosisRadiology2019
Deep Learning Image ReconstructionGE Medical Systems, LLC.DiagnosisRadiology2019
eMurmer IDCSD Labs GmbHDiagnosisCardiology2019
HealthPNXZebra Medical Vision Ltd.DiagnosisRadiology2019
Aidoc BriefCase- CSF triageAidoc Medical, Ltd.DiagnosisRadiology2019
ReSET-OPear Therapeutics, Inc.TreatmentPsychiatry2019
HealthICHZebra Medical Vision Ltd.DiagnosisNeuroradiology2019
Advanced Intelligent Clear-IQ Engine (AiCE)Canon Medical Systems CorporationDiagnosisRadiology2019
Koios DSKoios Medical, IncDiagnosisOncology2019
DeepCTDeep01 LimitedDiagnosisNeuroradiology2019
iNtuition-Structural Heart ModuleTeraRecon, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2019
AI-Rad Companion (Pulmonary)Siemens HealthineersDiagnosisRadiology2019
ACR | LAB Urine Analysis Test, Ltd.DiagnosisUrology2019
Current Wearable Health Monitoring SystemCurrent Health, Ltd.Follow-upHospital monitoring2019
physIQ Heart Rhythm and Respiratory ModulephysIQ, IncDiagnosisCardiology2019
RayCare 2.3RaySearch Laboratories ABTreatmentRadiology2019
Critical Care SuiteGE Medical SystemsDiagnosisRadiology2019
Biovitals Analytics EngineBiofourmis Singapore Pte. LtdFollow-upCardiology2019
Caption GuidanceCaption Health, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2019
AI-Rad Companion (cardiovascular)Siemens HealthineersDiagnosisRadiology2019
SubtleMRSubtle Medical, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2019
StoneCheckerImaging Biometrics, LLCDiagnosisRadiology2019
BrainScope TBIBrainScope Company, IncDiagnosisNeurology2019
ProFound AI Software V2.1ICAD Inc.DiagnosisOncology2019
KOALAIB Lab GmbHDiagnosisRadiology2019
EchoGo CoreUltromics, Ltd.DiagnosisCardiology2019
HealthCXRZebra Medical Vision, Ltd.DiagnosisRadiology2019
icobrainIcometrix NVDiagnosisNeuroradiology2019
QyScore SoftwareQynapseDiagnosisNeuroradiology2019
Aidoc BriefCase- LVOAidoc Medical, Ltd.DiagnosisNeuroradiology2019
AutoMIStarApollo Medical Imaging Technology Pty, Ltd.DiagnosisNeuroradiology2019
TransparaTMScreenpoint Medical B.V.DiagnosisRadiology2019
ADAS 3DGalgo Medical S.LDiagnosisRadiology2020
QuantXQuantitative Insights, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2020
Eko Analysis SoftwareEko Devices, Inc.Follow-upCardiology2020
densitas densityaiDensitas, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2020
red dotBehold.AI Technologies, Ltd.DiagnosisRadiology2020
icobrain-ctpIcometrix NVDiagnosisNeuroradiology2020
BroncholabFluidda, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2020
TransparaScreenPoint Medical B.V.DiagnosisOncology2020
Al-Rad Companion (Musculoskeletal)Siemens HealthineersDiagnosisRadiology2020
Hepatic VCARGE Medical SystemsDiagnosisRadiology2020
RAPID ICHiSchemaView, Inc.DiagnosisNeuroradiology2020
AIMI-Triage CXR PTXRadLogics, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2020
CuraRad-ICHKeya MedicalDiagnosisNeuroradiology2020
NinesAINines, Inc.DiagnosisNeuroradiology2020
HealthVCFZebra Medical Vision, Ltd.DiagnosisRadiology2020
Syngo.CT CaScoringSiemens HealthineersDiagnosisRadiology2020
MEDO ARIAMedo.AIDiagnosisOrthopedics2020
Auto 3D Bladder Volume ToolButterfly Network, Inc.DiagnosisUrology2020
AI-Rad Companion Brain MRSiemens HealthineersDiagnosisNeuroradiology2020 TechnologiesDiagnosisNeuroradiology2020
BriefCase-IFGAidoc Medical, Ltd.DiagnosisRadiology2020
Rapid ASPECTSiSchemaView Inc.DiagnosisNeuroradiology2020
EyeArtEyenuk, Inc.DiagnosisOphthalmology2020
InferRead Lung CT.AIBeijing Infervision Technology Co., Ltd.DiagnosisRadiology2020
Rapid LVO 1.0iSchemaView, Inc.DiagnosisNeuroradiology2020
HealthMammoZebra Medical Vision, Ltd.DiagnosisOncology2020
Caption Interpretation Automated Ejection Fraction SoftwareCaption HealthDiagnosisCardiology2020
AI-Rad Companion Prostate MRSiemens HealthineersDiagnosisRadiology2020
FractureDetect (FX)Imagen TechnologiesDiagnosisRadiology2020
VIDA|visionVIDA Diagnostics, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2020
AccipiolxMaxQ Al, Ltd.DiagnosisNeuroradiology2020
Aidoc BriefCase for iPE TriageAidoc Medical, Ltd.DiagnosisRadiology2020
Aview 2.0Coreline Soft Co., Ltd.DiagnosisRadiology2020
AVA (Augmented Vascular Analysis)See-Mode Technologies Pte, Ltd.DiagnosisCardiology2020
THINQCorticoMetrics LLCDiagnosisNeuroradiology2020
Cleerly Labs V2.0Cleerly, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2020
Syngo.CT Neuro PerfusionSiemens HealthineersDiagnosisNeuroradiology2020
Quantib ProstateQuantib BVDiagnosisRadiology2020
AVIEW LCSCoreline Soft Co., Ltd.DiagnosisRadiology2020
Liver Surface Nodularity (LSN)Imaging Biometrics, LLCDiagnosisRadiology2020 Inc.DiagnosisOncology2020
Neuro.AI AlgorithmTeraRecon, Inc.DiagnosisNeuroradiology2020
FastStroke, CT Perfusion 4DGE Medical SystemsDiagnosisNeuroradiology2020
PROViewGE Medical SystemsDiagnosisRadiology2020
Genius AI DetectionHologic, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2020
HALONiCo-Lab B.V.DiagnosisNeuroradiology2020
HealthJOINTZebra Medical Vision, Ltd.DiagnosisRadiology2020
HepaFat-AIResonance Health Analysis Service Pty, Ltd.DiagnosisRadiology2020
SQuEEZ SoftwareCardiowise, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2020
EchoGo ProUltromics, Ltd.DiagnosisCardiology2020
AI MetricsAI Metrics, LLCDiagnosisRadiology2020
BrainInsightHyperfine Research, Inc.DiagnosisNeuroradiology2021
HearFlow AnalysisHeartFlow, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2021
uAI EasyTriage-RibShanghai United Imaging Intelligence Co., Ltd.DiagnosisRadiology2021
Visage Breast DensityVisage Imaging GmbHDiagnosisOncology2021
CLEWICU SystemCLEW Medical, Ltd.DiagnosisHematology2021
Lvivo Software ApplicationDiA Imaging Analysis, Ltd.DiagnosisCardiology2021
VeolityMeVis Medical Solutions AGDiagnosisRadiology2021
NinesMeasureNines, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2021
Optellum Virtual Nodule Clinic, Optellum Software, Optellum PlatformOptellum, Ltd.DiagnosisRadiology2021
Imbio RV/LV SoftwareImbio LLCDiagnosisRadiology2021
VbrainVysioneer, Inc.DiagnosisNeuroradiology2021
Viz ICHViz. AI, Inc.DiagnosisNeuroradiology2021
syngo.CT Lung CAD (VD20)Subtle Medical, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2021
CINA CHESTAVICENNA.AIDiagnosisRadiology2021
Overjet Dental AssistOverjet, Inc.DiagnosisRadiology2021

[i] AI, artificial intelligence.

Moreover, AI-based applications for follow-up of treatment progress are also being developed. In 2012, the BodyGuardian Remote Monitoring System was the first AI-based application for follow-up to be approved by the FDA (23). Subsequently, applications for follow-up are being actively developed and 13 applications were approved by the FDA in 2017-2020 (23,26). Similarly, computational support continues to contribute to drug development, such as methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase 2 targeting one carbon metabolism (27).

AI is being applied to various processes in the medical field. Current AI and AI-based applications are often specialized for each field; however, applications that are widely available, such as IBM Watson (, have been also developed (28-30). These applications have been developed during each of the AI booms, each of which exhibited their own trends and problems. AI in the current boom is more developed than before, but there are also problems such as the lack of knowledge regarding the information that AI recognizes. The resolution of such problems is expected to further develop AI. Big data and AI will continue to support healthcare in numerous ways.

3. Current AI applied in medicine


Diagnosis requires the ability to process different types of information about patients and detect abnormalities with high accuracy and reproducibility. In conventional diagnosis, physicians process various pieces of patient information using their own knowledge and/or experience, and detect abnormalities in patients using their own senses or through diagnostic equipment. This method sometimes fails to detect abnormalities in patients or results in the wrong decisions being made. In addition, the diagnostic ability is dependent on the experience of the physician. Therefore, AI is expected to have diagnostic performance with reproducibility and accuracy equal to or better than that of skilled physicians, and to compensate for differences in physician experience. Current AI for diagnosis is actively being developed to perform diagnostic imaging with computed tomography and tissue sections. In particular, convolutional neural networks perform well in the ILSVRC every year; therefore, convolutional neural networks are the most used for diagnostic imaging and perform as well as or better than skilled physicians (31). Moreover, systems have been developed to predict radiation or anticancer drug sensitivity using convolutional neural networks (32,33). In addition to diagnostic imaging, AI is also being developed to diagnose diseases such as cancer via machine learning of blood components (34). However, limitations in measurement sensitivity and technical artifacts such as noise are barriers to diagnosis using blood components. The development of improved measurement technology and/or more advanced machine learning models would be required for a diagnosis that applies machine learning of blood components (35).

As aforementioned, the current application of AI for diagnosis mainly improves the accuracy of each test. By contrast, for the identification of a disease from various symptoms in a patient and the results of tests, a wide range of knowledge, not specific knowledge, and advanced information processing is necessary. To meet this demand, AI assistants such as Watson are also being developed that can learn the literature on a subject by enabling the processing of natural language, and can make complex decisions using expert systems (28,36).

Thus, for diagnosis, AI is mainly developed to improve the accuracy of each test and make appropriate decisions using the large quantity of related literature available, and different algorithms suitable for each process are applied.


For treatment, surgical robots are mainly being developed. Surgical robots are suitable for detailed work with precise movements that is beyond the reach of human hands. In conventional surgical robot algorithms, classification and detection of objects required during surgery are performed by the developer manually creating features of the region of interest; however, with the advent of deep learning, convolutional neural networks are being applied for the classification and detection of objects (37,38). In addition, real-time predictions are also being made with recurrent neural networks (39). Conventional surgical robots are operated by a physician; however, surgical robots that work automatically without operation by a physician are also being developed (40). Thus, the development of AI has also led to the development of robots that support physicians during surgery.

In addition, in drug therapy, AI-based applications are being introduced in diagnosis and follow-up rather than in the treatment process. Various AI applications have been introduced in the drug development process to develop therapeutic drugs. In the drug development process, developers need to process an enormous amount of information to discover just a few promising compounds from millions to tens of millions of candidate compounds (41). Various types of AI play active roles in processing this information, as described in detail later in this review.

Thus, in the treatment process, surgical robots are mainly being developed to make the operation more accurate and reduce the burden on the physician, while in the drug development process, AI is being used to process large quantities of information.


In medicine, no matter what type of disease or what type of treatment is given, follow-up is more or less always necessary. In addition, life expectancy in the world has increased by 20 years in the last 50 years, and as the population ages, the risk of having chronic diseases increases. Against this background, wearable devices equipped with AI that can constantly monitor health conditions and immediately detect any abnormality in wearers are actively being developed. In particular, wearable devices are expected to be used in cardiology, where the condition of the patient may change rapidly and there is a direct link with mortality status. In fact, more than half of the applications for follow-up approved by the FDA in 2017-2020, including the ECG app on the Apple™ Watch, are wearable cardiology devices (23,26). A number of the algorithms in wearable devices are applied artificial neural networks or adaptive algorithms (42).

In addition to the wearable devices, automated communication systems have also being introduced for follow-up. For example, Pharmabot was a chatbot developed in 2015 to assist in medication education for pediatric patients and their parents using a Left-Right parsing algorithm and Care Angel, which applied an automated voice dialogue system to check on the condition of the person requiring care, to detect abnormalities and to alert the caregiver to changes if necessary (43,44).

As aforementioned, AI-based applications are contributing to medicine in numerous ways. The characteristics of conventional medicine and AI-based medicine are summarized in Table II. In the current section, some examples of the applied AI-based applications have been introduced; however, it is difficult for AI-based medicine to classify diseases and symptoms that are still difficult to define, and to obtain the sense of security that is felt upon meeting a doctor or nurse directly. It would be possible to realize better medical care by solving the disadvantages of both and integrating the advantages of both.

Table II

Comparison between conventional and computational medicine.

Table II

Comparison between conventional and computational medicine.

DiagnosisDoctors meet patients; patients are diagnosed using diagnostic equipment at the hospital; diagnostic accuracy depends on the experience of a doctorAI can detect lesions with the same or better accuracy than a skilled doctor; AI support is used to avoid misdiagnoses; AI supports the decision of the doctor by processing of the medical literature
TreatmentDoctors perform surgery directly; doctors or nurses administer medicationsRobotics support doctors in surgery; devices automatically administer medications based on time and symptoms
Follow-upDoctors or nurses meet patients; patients are diagnosed using diagnostic equipment at a hospitalDevices, such as those that are wearable, can detect abnormalities at a very early stage; the AI can consult with patients about their medical conditions and medications
AdvantagesPatients can meet their doctors and nurses; abstract expression is possibleAI decreases the burden on doctors and nurses; AI responds quickly in an emergency
ProblemsThe burden on doctors and nurses is heavy; sometimes it is not possible to respond immediately in an emergencyThe process of outputting the data is incomprehensible to humans. Application cost is high. AI cannot take responsibility for mistakes.

[i] AI, artificial intelligence.

4. AI in drug development as a foundation for drug therapy

Medications used in pharmacotherapy are discovered from among millions to tens of millions of candidate compounds after long years of research and after a huge amount of money has been expended. To evaluate each candidate compound, a number of key pieces of information are required for evaluation, such as in vitro and in vivo pharmacological activity, safety, target specificity, pharmacokinetics, physical properties such as molecular weight and solubility, stability in the body and during storage, and development cost. Therefore, drug development sites always generate enormous amounts of information. Developers need to extract the important information from this in order to discover optimal compounds. Therefore, it is expected that AI would improve the accuracy and efficiency of developers in drug development. AI was introduced to the field of drug development earlier than to the medical field (45). In conventional drug development, developers propose hypotheses for the treatment of a disease and focus on a target that can be used to develop a therapeutic drug within the hypothesis; this is followed by drug development. However, this process might miss crucial therapeutic targets and drugs for various diseases. In AI-based drug development, AI can propose, and lead to the development of, important targets and candidate drugs for disease therapy (Table III). In particular, Watson is able to identify connections and relationships among diseases, drugs, genes and other factors, and can generate novel hypotheses by mining the scientific literature (28). This tool is useful not only for drug development, but also for drug repurposing. In addition, Watson is constantly and automatically updated. Automatic learning in AI is important, not only to decrease the effort involved, but also to create better methods to meet unmet needs in life sciences and medicine.

Table III

Comparison between conventional and AI-based drug development.

Table III

Comparison between conventional and AI-based drug development.

Drug developmentConventionalAI-based
Driving factorTarget-drivenData-driven
TargetsEasily druggable targets with known structure and interactions in cellsMeaningful targets extracted by machine learning using big data
AdvantagesIt is easy for humans to understand identified targets and compounds.Saves time and money by predicting the activities and properties of compounds before synthesis; compounds that target un-druggable molecules may be identified
ProblemsTargets are limited by the complex and/or un-known structures and interactions; the identification of promising compounds is time consuming (numerous synthesis-evaluation cycles).A large amount of accurate data is necessary for learning; AI cannot understand whether compounds are meaningful for humans

[i] AI, artificial intelligence.

AI-based drug development can save time and money. In conventional drug development, screening is performed using millions to tens of millions of compound libraries, followed by synthetic development based on the candidate compounds obtained from the screening and the re-evaluation of their activities to identify those with promise. However, numerous identified compounds do not exhibit physical properties and safety profiles that are suitable for pharmaceutical applications; therefore, other compounds are often re-synthesized. To avoid such time and money loss, AI-based drug development can predict the activity, physical properties and safety of each compound using computers. Various AI-based applications have been developed to predict these parameters (Figs. 2 and 3) (28,46-62). Furthermore, applications have been developed that predict not only the properties of individual compounds, but also suitable routes of synthesizing pharmacological reagents or therapeutic compounds (61,62). The cost of drug development has been decreased by these applications; however, the accuracy of the AI prediction of the compound properties is not sufficient and further improvement of this factor is necessary. In particular, AI-based applications have been actively developed as screening steps, which require time and money. However, it is difficult to predict the affinities between a target protein and compounds, for the following reasons: i) Difficulties in predicting protein flexibility; ii) ambiguity regarding the complexity of a protein in an actual environment, and iii) difficulties in assessing the solvent effects of an actual environment (63,64). To solve these problems, a number of experiments and new algorithms would be necessary.

One of the most difficult steps in the process of drug development is the prediction of adverse effects. It has been reported that computational modeling using machine learning is useful for predicting adverse effects (65). Moreover, it is possible to manufacture synthetic patients and data artificially by analyzing existing data using machine learning techniques (66,67). As there are no ethical concerns regarding the privacy and costs of using synthetic data, this would be a powerful tool for clinical studies that require a large number of patients and may be an effective alternative for preparing training data for machine learning algorithms. These fields of research could be further enriched by AI in the near future and would also contribute to the realization of personalized precision medicine.

5. Perspectives for AI-based medicine and drug development

AI has been used for clinical purposes and drug development. However, the current AI-based applications are only being developed for specific applications at each stage of pharmacological or medical applications. In particular, AI-based applications with a high accuracy for diagnosis have actively been developed. However, a diagnosis is not determined based only on the result of one diagnostic method, and should be performed by comprehensively combining various types of information, such as chief complaints and physical findings; a system that integrates the various specific diagnostic data would be necessary in the future (Fig. 3A). If the disease remained unclear based only on the acquired information, the system would be a present a diagnostic method to determine the condition. The system would avoid missing information and improve the accuracy of the diagnosis. In addition, the system would not only be used for diagnosis, but also for monitoring the progress of treatment after surgery and drug therapy. At present, almost no AI-based application has been developed that predicts the therapeutic effect or proposes a therapeutic method. However, a system has been reported in basic research that predicts the sensitivity of anticancer agents and radiation therapy based on phase contrast image information (32,33). In the near future, AI may be able to predict the therapeutic effects of various therapeutic methods in advance and suggest an appropriate therapeutic method. Thus, clinical AI in the future should be a system that interprets and integrates various types of clinical information and considers the changes caused by each treatment, to promote the best flow toward the complete cure of the disease. In addition, by constantly collecting information on complaints and physical status, both inside and outside the hospital, AI systems should always support the ability of a patient to live without aggravating their condition.

In drug development, numerous specific AI-based applications are already in use. In particular, a number of applications for the simulation of the docking of compounds to target proteins have been developed (47-53). Moreover, in addition to having an excellent specific score (such as affinity for a target protein), a candidate compound needs to have comprehensive excellent safety and pharmacokinetics. Therefore, a system for identifying promising compounds by considering various characteristics, as well as learning specific scores, will be required in the future (Fig. 3B). Furthermore, in drug development, clinical trials impose a heavy financial and time burden. It is necessary to improve the efficiency of clinical trials by using portal devices, which configure and manage devices remotely over the network or via USB connection, and collecting and selecting applicable patients.

The most important key to solving the problems facing AI-based applications is making it possible for people to understand the judgment process of AI. AI-based clinical applications would be utilized in important aspects of future treatment decisions, such as the diagnosis and evaluation of treatment effectiveness. If the AI determination process is unclear, the medical staff could not evaluate the validity of the AI determination, which would lead to the distrust of AI. To solve the uncertainty of AI, ‘Explainable AI’ has been actively researched (68). The development of Explainable AI would be essential for the widespread use of AI-based applications in healthcare.

In addition, as AI-based healthcare would accumulate a greater amount of medical information than the current healthcare system, it would be necessary to prepare an infrastructure and security systems to handle large amounts of information. Futuristic clinical AI might monitor not only medical information, but also the tasks of patients and medical staff, and might forecast workflow bottlenecks.

As aforementioned, the implementation of AI could facilitate more accuracy and greater efficiency in various fields of healthcare; however, it has some issues and limitations. Both medical staff and developers would need to understand the issues and limitations, and then the coexistence of humans and AI could lead to better healthcare.

6. Conclusion

AI has evolved with the times and has been utilized in applications in drug development and healthcare. These applications are steadily producing results, and the use of AI is becoming established. The implementation of AI in society will need to overcome issues such as how to develop leading companies and train data scientists. However, company development may still face some obstacles, such as implementing AI, employment and cost. In the future, to improve human health, we should not only develop AI, but also think about the coexistence of humans with AI.


Not applicable.


This study was supported in part by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (grant nos. 19K22658, 19K09172, 19K07688, 20H00541, 221S0002 and 21K19526) and the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (grant no. 16cm0106414h0001). Partial support was received from the Princess Takamatsu Cancer Research Fund (2019).

Availability of data and materials

Not applicable.

Authors' contributions

HI, MT and AV conceptualized the study. AA, MK and HI wrote the manuscript. All authors have read and approved the final version of the manuscript. Data authentication is not applicable.

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Not applicable.

Patient consent for publication

Not applicable.

Competing interests

Institutional endowments were received partially from Hirotsu Bio Science Inc. (Tokyo, Japan), Kinshu-kai Medical Corporation (Osaka, Japan), IDEA Consultants, Inc. (Tokyo, Japan), Kyowa-kai Medical Corporation (Hyogo, Japan), Unitech Co., Ltd. (Chiba, Japan), Chugai Co., Ltd. (Tokyo, Japan), Yakult Honsha Co., Ltd. (Tokyo, Japan) and Ono Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. (Osaka, Japan).



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Asai A, Konno M, Taniguchi M, Vecchione A and Ishii H: Computational healthcare: Present and future perspectives (Review). Exp Ther Med 22: 1351, 2021
Asai, A., Konno, M., Taniguchi, M., Vecchione, A., & Ishii, H. (2021). Computational healthcare: Present and future perspectives (Review). Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, 22, 1351.
Asai, A., Konno, M., Taniguchi, M., Vecchione, A., Ishii, H."Computational healthcare: Present and future perspectives (Review)". Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine 22.6 (2021): 1351.
Asai, A., Konno, M., Taniguchi, M., Vecchione, A., Ishii, H."Computational healthcare: Present and future perspectives (Review)". Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine 22, no. 6 (2021): 1351.