If you have a smartphone, the pictures you take with it are automatically enhanced by software that’s been “taught” to make your picture appear sharper and brighter by analyzing thousands and thousands of similar photos. This type of machine learning — a key aspect of artificial intelligence — is similar to what’s happening in cardiovascular care (see “Understanding artificial intelligence”). But instead of studying photos, the programs analyze images from chest CT scans, ultrasound images of the heart (echocardiograms), and tracings of the heart’s electrical activity (electrocardiograms).
“We now have tools that can take in vast amounts of many types of data, including numbers, images, and even sounds,” says Dr. Michael Lu, director of artificial intelligence for the Cardiovascular Imaging Research Center at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. Machine learning models created with this data can identify patterns that may help physicians make more accurate decisions about diagnosing and treating heart disease.