Before AI becomes more humane, it is worth asking ourselves: "Are we humane enough? "
Technology has entered quickly into the healthcare sector. It arrived with one of the most useful aspects of tech - the use of AI. That evolves especially rapidly after the COVID epidemic and is actively used in diagnosis and prognostics.
Oleg Pun, Vareger's CEO
According to Accenture's fresh data, growth in the AI health market is expected to reach $6.6 billion by 2021, and in the next five years the healthcare AI market will grow more than 10x2. They also state that the key clinical health AI applications can potentially create $150 billion in annual savings for the US healthcare economy by 2026. This is a very impressive reason to evaluate the role of AI in healthcare.
There are long-term problems with AI that could cause concern.
The first one is personnel, many medics fear AI will "take our jobs" and create a gap in the job market. From my point of view, these are not entirely valid concerns, because it is clear AI is a tool that helps people in the job rather than replacing them. In the long term, medics will have to study new technologies and find new specializations at the intersection of both technology and medicine. Collaboration will help medics and tech professionals live in a new world. This is a challenge, but not a threat and Stanford University's efforts reveal this clearly.
The second cause for concern is related to personal data. There have been no major changes, apart from regulatory attempts (HIPAA in the US, GDPR in Europe, etc) and data trusts attempts. There is also a scientifically based approach of turning personal data into a full-fledged asset that must be under control by individuals.
The third is an ethical problem and is related to the human factor in AI usage. This problem can lead to biases in treatment approaches and deepening of inequality in healthcare.
"According to a 2017 report by the National Academy of Medicine on healthcare disparities, non-whites continue to experience worse outcomes for infant mortality, obesity, heart disease, cancer, stroke, HIV/AIDS, and overall mortality. Shockingly, Alaskan Natives suffer from 60% higher infant mortality than whites. And worse, AIDS mortality for African Americans is increasing. Even among whites, there are substantial geographic differences in outcomes and mortality. Biases based on socioeconomic status may be exacerbated by incorporating patient-generated data from expensive sensors, phones, and social media", states Neil Raden in his article here.
All these problems are associated with AI, healthcare and with people. More precisely, with the fact on how people use AI and what it leads to, or can lead to. AI has no emotional intelligence and cannot be humane, it just does what people say it to do (though, emotion probably would be the next step in its evolution, but not for today).
Discussing the data entries and ethics I've mentioned above: it rather depends on who collects this data and for what purpose. And obviously, the set of this data will differ from the point of view of the medic, pharmacist or payer and insurer. If a physician is interested in a patients' health data, the insurer could be more interested in data related to the patient's financial situation, payments, claims, etc.
My point is, before AI becomes more humane, it is worth asking ourselves, are we humane enough? Should the healthcare sector be perceived as an industry, or should it have parts that are not subject to total commerce?
If the answer is positive then we come to the conclusion that technologies should work in medicine for individuals, and not for everyone in general. This task can best be dealt with by personalized medicine which will provide in particular a personal and possibly already emotional AI approach to each patient.
In general, it's a healthcare model aimed at improving the health of a person, based on all the genetic and diagnostic data. As I see it, the data that a person provides consciously and voluntarily in order to obtain the best medical solution AI is a great option. It is capable of processing an incredible amount of data in a second and offers the best solutions.
Diagnostics, prognostication and treatment plans based on personal AI are components that will make healthcare not only affordable but available individually for everyone.
While taking into account information stated by Dr. Taha Kass-Hout, general manager for healthcare and AI, and chief medical officer at Amazon Web Services at HIMSS20 Digital educational session "Healthcare’s Prescription for Transformation: AI".
“If you look at the overall value of why AI is really important, especially in our current situation with the global pandemic we live in, 50% of the world’s population has no access to essential healthcare. <...> If you look at the United States alone, 10% of the population has no insurance and 30% of the working population are underinsured, and insurance costs per individual have reached over $20,000-$30,000 in the last year alone," she stated.
AI personalization is also researched by McKinsey that previews three phases in AI scaling in healthcare:
1. AI applications based on imaging, which are already in use in specialties such as radiology, pathology and ophthalmology
2. AI solutions that support the shift from hospital-based to home-based care
3. AI solutions in clinical practice based on evidence from clinical trials, with increasing focus on improved and scaled clinical decision-support (CDS) tools (read the full research here)
The role of AI in personalized approach in healthcare is also discussed by the pharmacists who are starting to focus on the digital trust mandate (here are some thoughts on the issue).
And surely, personal and hopefully emotional AI will be of great benefit for those who are more vulnerable to health issues like kids, elders, or people with mental issues. It's good when you have your own personal AI, and there is someone, apart from the medics and close relatives, who cares.
And this is one more reason why we are doing our part at Health Solutions Digital Lab.
P.S. It's become a tradition to say a couple words about the people or companies that inspired me to write this post. Today I was inspired by Dr. Cecily Morrison, her story and devotedness to the AI, Dr.Eric Topol and his interview to the Discover Magazine and S.T.A.C.I. — interactive guide to the rapid advances of AI in health care made by statnews.com.
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