CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 · Yearb Med Inform 2019; 28(01): 257-262
DOI: 10.1055/s-0039-1677891
History of Medical Informatics
Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart

Artificial Intelligence in Medicine: Weighing the Accomplishments, Hype, and Promise

Edward H. Shortliffe
1  Department of Biomedical Informatics, Columbia University
2  College of Health Solutions, Arizona State University
3  Department of Health Policy and Research, Weill Cornell Medical College
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25. April 2019 (online)



Introduction: Artificial Intelligence in Medicine (AIM) research is now 50 years old, having made great progress that has tracked the corresponding evolution of computer science, hardware technology, communications, and biomedicine. Characterized as being in its “adolescence” at an international meeting in 1991, and as “coming of age” at another meeting in 2007, the AIM field is now more visible and influential than ever before, paralleling the enthusiasm and accomplishments of artificial intelligence (AI) more generally.

Objectives: This article summarizes some of that AIM history, providing an update on the status of the field as it enters its second half-century. It acknowledges the failure of AI, including AIM, to live up to early predictions of its likely capabilities and impact.

Methods: The paper reviews and assesses the early history of the AIM field, referring to the conclusions of papers based on the meetings in 1991 and 2007, and analyzing the subsequent evolution of AIM.

Conclusion: We must be cautious in assessing the speed at which further progress will be made, despite today’s wild predictions in the press and large investments by industry, including in health care. The inherent complexity of medicine and of clinical care necessitates that we address issues of usability, workflow, transparency, safety, and formal clinical trials. These requirements contribute to an ongoing research agenda that means academic AIM research will continue to be vibrant while having new opportunities for more interactions with industry.