Many people have fully embraced robotically-assisted surgery, but some fear the use of artificial intelligence in medicine. Maybe that’s due to sci-fi movies depicting computers capable of overtaking humans, or perhaps they simply don’t understand how it can help. 

Off the big screen, artificial intelligence (AI) is simply programming machines to perform specific tasks as well as – or better – than a human. In medicine, it does not replace the physician or the human touch; it is complementary. There are two types of AI – physical (like robots and intelligent protheses) and virtual (electronic systems, neural-network guidance). For radiologists, AI can aid in improving workflow operations like patient scheduling, the transmission of images, report turn-around, as well as diagnostic accuracy and physician efficiency. 

One local company actively developing virtual AI solutions is HALO Dx (formerly Desert Medical Imaging). With a goal of changing the face of medical diagnostics by combining technology, radiology and personalized medicine, they brought dozens of software engineers to observe radiologists at their Innovation Center in Indian Wells to create AI solutions to enhance both operational and clinical aspects of the field. 

“Our engineers are developing algorithms to focus on pattern recognition of abnormalities. These machine-learning programs will be able to identify abnormalities like tumors better than the human eye,” said John F. Feller, MD, chief medical officer of HALO Dx. “This artificial intelligence is going to be like a companion radiologist. While our radiologists will be reading cases, these algorithms will also be reading images to make sure we don’t miss something because of fatigue or interruptions. It’s almost like having a second radiologist, but that second radiologist will continually get better as more data is added.”

A rapidly growing area of personalized medicine is genomics, the study of a person’s genome; their entire DNA. Genomics elevates treatment recommendations beyond the standard treatment for the specific disease. It is based on the patient’s own genes and can look closely at cancer genes, for example, to determine how those cells might grow (or not grow) to aid in ultra-personalized treatment recommendations. AI will also help with the establishment of personalized medicine plans by charting predictive modeling and prognosis, especially in cancer patients. 

“We are starting with prostate cancer genomic testing and will then branch out to other conditions,” said Bernadette M. Greenwood, chief research officer at HALO Dx. “Utilizing MRI guidance, we obtain a piece of tissue from the tumor, look at it under a microscope and send it to the lab to extract RNA from the tumor,” she said, explaining that cancer often hides in the mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid). “We then look at things that are over or under expressed in certain populations. This helps to risk stratify patients to determine if they are good candidates for minimally invasive surgery or if they need whole gland therapy.” 

The real-life applications of AI are even more exciting than sci-fi movies, and with improved diagnostic accuracy should deliver blockbuster results.

HALO Dx has offices in Indian Wells, Indio and Palm Springs. For more information about their nationally-renowned early prostate cancer detection program or diagnostic imaging services, call (760) 275-5768 or visit

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