W. Nicholson Price II For millions of people suffering from diabetes, new technology enabled by artificial intelligence promises to make management much easier. Medtronic’s Guardian Connect system promises to alert users 10 to 60 minutes before they hit high or low blood sugar level thresholds, thanks to IBM Watson, “the same supercomputer technology that can predict global weather patterns.” Startup Beta Bionics goes even further: In May, it received Food and Drug Administration approval to start clinical trials on what it calls a “bionic pancreas system” powered by artificial intelligence, capable of “automatically and autonomously managing blood sugar levels 24/7.” Diabetes devices provide an example in microcosm of broader issues with artificial intelligence in medicine.

The potential here is enormous in terms of improved patient health, reduced costs, and increased access to high-quality care. Imagine if every primary care physician could diagnose certain eye problems as well as an ophthalmologist, or if pictures of skin lesions could be automatically evaluated for signs of cancer.

These technologies are coming—the eye example is already FDA-approved. Soon, A.I.

will make predictions, recommendations, and even decisions about patient care. But ensuring that medical A.I.

consistently helps patients will demand careful study and continuing oversight. To understand the challenge in diabetes, it helps to know the technological baseline. Read more from…

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