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Health + Tech | A new frontier - Artificial intelligence in healthcare management

Published:Sunday | December 16, 2018 | 12:00 AMDoug Halsall
Doug Halsall
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Earlier this year, I wrote an article about computer vision and how it can positively impact healthcare.

This kind of artificial intelligence (AI) is already a feature of health technology and is used to aid in diagnosis and treatment. AI research in health has been happening for years with spinal stimulation and brain computer interface.

These devices link the brain to a computer and allow for the movement of an external limb such as an arm or leg. Research into this was made popular during the famous 'Superman' actor Christopher Reeves' recovery after a paralysing accident in 1995.

Long before that in the mid 1980s, when I was at NCR, we invited Associate Professor in the Biomedical Engineering Department at Wright State University in Ohio, Jerrold Petrofsky to the Jamaica Computer Society's Annual Convention to show the human side of computers and speak on his research at that time into technology that connects the brain to the spinal cord.

He was a pioneer in health technology and was famous for facilitating a paraplegic woman, Nan Davis, walking from her wheelchair to collect her diploma in 1983. This was later immortalised in the 1985 TV movie 'First Steps'.

There have since been several developments in AI in other areas of healthcare. For example, I recently read about an app that can determine whether a person is anaemic with a photo of the fingernail.

Here, through AI, the smart phone has become a diagnostic tool, which is significant because of the high level of access to cell phones. Similar to this app, remote care management tools have also broadened access to diagnostics, health maintenance and care resources.

They allow individuals to use personal devices to monitor their health and link with their physician who can alert them if there are any abnormal readings. AI in this sense can also be used to diagnose certain non-communicable diseases and is already central to aiding in the diagnosis and treatment of issues like hypertension and diabetes.

I had spoken at length in a previous article about the potential of AI in radiology and how transformative that has been, and will continue to be. AI improves accuracy and facilitates more detailed readings. This will allow for faster action and better treatment regimes.

Also, by taking over some of the 'reading' duties, AI can fill gaps in human resource and allow for more access to a wider cross section of people around the world.

One of the things I have been excited about is the increase in take up and recognition of the importance of electronic medical records (EMR). There is so much positive to using this resource.

AI can make it even easier for the physician by reducing the amount of time spent to write notes during a consultation. More of the physician's focus can be on the clinical aspects of care, which of course would be to the benefit of the patient. Several medical transcription software are now on the market that can facilitate this.

These intuitive interfaces simply automate much of the routine work the doctor would normally do making EMR even more valuable and easy to navigate.

To take things a little further, AI, through the EMR can be used to predict a patient's risk of developing certain illnesses. For example, genetics, family history and current state of health can all be used as considerations, and through an algorithm, the patient's likelihood of developing a certain illness can be determined.

A doctor can use this information to develop personalised preventive treatment and care plans. A consideration for the future is for AI to process simple and routine requests from patients such a medication refills, questions about illnesses, appointments and so on, freeing up the physician to focus on larger treatment and care issues.

There are a myriad of ways that AI can improve healthcare especially diagnosis and treatment. I have mentioned only a few significant ones that we can achieve with the health technology present in Jamaica, just to give an idea of what we can do.

I am excited about the strides we will be making in improving the general health and well-being of our population through health technology.

- Doug Halsall is the chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems. Feedback: Doug.halsall@gmail.com