Will AI cure us of the need to see a doctor?

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In today’s ever-evolving world, health care is at a critical juncture, facing challenges and opportunities like never before. Key issues like burnout among professionals, medical errors, inefficient data management, and escalating costs are ripe for AI-driven innovations. According to a report by Accenture, AI has the potential to save the healthcare industry up to $150 billion annually in the US alone by 2026.

But beyond the numbers and potential savings lies a deeper, more personal story – one that intertwines my own journey from a career in finance and telecommunications to the helm of a health-tech AI startup. I have come to appreciate the profound impact that AI can have on our healthcare system and, by extension, our lives. I have seen how AI-powered diagnostic tools can enable early disease diagnosis, leading to better patient outcomes. I have also seen how AI can automate administrative tasks, allowing medics to focus on what matters most: caring for the patient.

Health care has taken centre stage in global discussions, with a growing focus on how it intersects with climate change; this was seen during the inaugural health day at Cop28 in Dubai last year. Events such as the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting at Davos hear about world leaders’ relentless efforts to bring about a more harmonious global order, where health and technology play integral roles in our collective consciousness. Amid these dialogues, questions arise: what are we truly deliberating? What steps are needed for genuine change? How can robust public-private partnerships shape a brighter future?

The primary goal is health promotion and disease prevention. AI can revolutionise patient engagement and education, paving the way for a more informed, efficient, patient-centric healthcare system. AI can also help raise awareness about health issues and promote preventive measures, ultimately reducing the need for medical care.

Rapid technological advancements, especially in AI and genetic sequencing, enable the development of precise and preventive medical solutions. By analysing large amounts of data, including patient symptoms, clinical histories and lifestyles, AI can help create a personalised diagnosis as well as identifying genetic variations and their effect on health. AI can also generate insights and enable systems to reason and learn, resulting in automated genetic diagnoses with accuracy similar to human experts.

Translating precision medicine at a population scale and ensuring clinical adoption would not be possible without platforms such as Malaffi, operated by M42’s Abu Dhabi Health Data Services and the Department of Health Abu Dhabi. The future of such health care revolves around a holistic approach to AI-powered solutions, all rooted in strong public-private partnerships.

The burgeoning excitement around AI’s potential to transform health care is palpable, with its promise of groundbreaking advancements in patient care and system efficiency. However, AI in health care does present a range of challenges and ethical concerns, and we should never lose sight of these.

Key issues like burnout among professionals, medical errors, inefficient data management and escalating costs are ripe for AI-driven innovations

Patients’ privacy and consent must be respected when AI collects and analyses their data. Patients must be well informed about the use of their data and retain the right to opt-out or withdraw consent. Due to the rapid pace at which AI developments can happen, there is a key issue surrounding the expiration of informed consent and how to tackle this. Ensuring these systems are transparent, reliable and safe is essential to improving the trust and adoption of clinical AI.

AI should complement, not replace, the judgment and autonomy of healthcare professionals. Striking the right balance between human and AI involvement in healthcare decision-making is essential for patient care and outcomes. For example, our AI teams are currently working with the physicians in our network to build AI models for automated reporting that can help reduce the clinicians’ workload, enabling doctors to dedicate more time to focus on complex cases and patient care.

The journey continues as technology revolutionises health care. New government-business partnerships will harness the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s innovations to enhance global health care. The World Economic Forum’s Centre for Health and Healthcare is pioneering strategies for the well-being of societies worldwide. In addition, the WEF’s Digital Healthcare Transformation Initiative, a collaborative effort involving leaders from the public sector, the IT industry and investors, is set to unlock the potential of digital data and AI in health care. Key focus areas include data utilisation, funding and incentives, tech and analytics, hybrid healthcare delivery and regulatory policies.

These efforts aim to accelerate the journey towards health equity on a global scale. By working with industry giants and the government, we have made significant strides in improving healthcare quality and personalised solutions. It’s not individual achievements but collective collaboration that fuels transformation.

As we look to the future, we are committed to positively disrupting traditional health care. We believe in the transformative power of AI for the betterment of humanity. The transition from curative to preventive health solutions is not just a faraway goal but is quickly becoming a reality.

How can we, as a global community, accelerate the shift toward preventive health care? Where do we go from here? Let us continue to engage in a meaningful dialogue, share ideas and collaboratively shape the path to this goal. This, to me, signifies the essence of progress – a collective endeavour enriched by our unique narratives and united in the pursuit of a better world for generations to come.

Published: January 25, 2024, 2:00 PM

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