The global healthcare industry could generate some $150bn (£114bn) in savings through its use of AI and cognitive computing by 2025, reckons Frost and Sullivan.

Fresh forecasts from the consulting firm examine the current AI supplier market and the revenues expected to be made by AI-enabled technologies within primary healthcare IT.

While current uptake of health AI is slow, Frost and Sullivan predicts the market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 69% between now and 2022, reaching $6.2bn (£4.7bn) within the next four years.

Despite “strategic and technological challenges” creating headaches for those eager to embrace AI, a ‘democratisation’ of AI – led by major IT firms like Google, Microsoft and IBM Watson – is expected to lower the barrier to entry by making supporting infrastructure more cost-efficient.

This will “dramatically improve” the lay of the health AI landscape within the next three to five years, Frost and Sullivan claims.

Slow going

Assessing the current state of AI in healthcare, the firm found the technology is mostly being used to help make sense of increasingly complex data.

AI-enabled solutions are also being used for the purposes of disease prediction and personalised medicine and treatment programmes, as well as in less apparently exciting use cases such as claims management, and real-time supply chain management.

Yet despite the growth of health AI technologies, Frost and Sullivan found that only 15-20% of end users are “actively using AI to drive real change in the way healthcare is delivered”.

Koustav Chatterjee, industry analyst at the consulting firm’s transformational health programme, said: “To be successful, healthcare IT providers need to devise AI-based business models that fetch real benefits in the form of tangible return on investment (ROI) to end users.

“More importantly, one must realise that patient-generated data which AI platforms interpret has multiple utilities for diverse healthcare stakeholders. Fully informed consent from patients coupled with 100% compliance with stringent data usage regulation has to be ensured to remain relevant in the market.”

US leading as Europe lags

The UK government has thrown its weight behind the use of artificial intelligence in British industry, not least within healthcare, where new innovations have been repeatedly enthused about by health secretary, Matt Hancock.

However, Frost and Sullivan identified the United States as “the global hub of healthcare AI” due to a combination of what it perceived as strong financial investment, adoption and supportive infrastructure.

Comparatively, Europe was seen to be “struggling to pioneer AI innovations due to restrictive data policies”.

Indeed, this has been identified as a major hurdle in the NHS, with disparate data standards and conflicting IT systems stymieing the breadth and scope of AI initiatives in UK health and care.

A ‘code of conduct’ for AI in healthcare has been put forward by the UK government with a view to accelerating the introduction of proven AI technologies while safeguarding patient data.