AI & Healthcare Conference Considers Access, Equity & Gender

Digital health holds the potential to transform health systems so that they become more proactive and responsive to patients, advocates said at Wednesday’s launch of a two-day international conference that brought together members of the global healthcare and artificial intelligence (AI) communities in Switzerland’s pharmaceutical industry hub, Basel.

But using AI doesn’t inherently empower women or other vulnerable groups, some speakers and participants also pointed out. Policies have to be shaped to ensure that such technologies advance equity and access to health care.

The two-day Intelligent Health 2019 conference, organized by Novartis Foundation, brings together experts from some 67 countries, as well as representatives of the World Health Organisation, and other international agencies, along with tech giants such as Google and Microsoft.

“Digital tech can transform our health and care systems from being reactive to becoming proactive and even predictive. That’s the challenge the Novartis Foundation is now fully focused on,” said Dr. Ann Aerts, Head of the Novartis Foundation, speaking about the conference aims in a blog.

“Some of the biggest medical and health problems in the world today can be solved by harnessing the power of AI, big data and digital solutions. We have the potential to unite multi disciplinary groups ….from governments, corporates, healthcare providers and global clinician communities to radically transform the quality of lives globally” said Sarah Porter, CEO & Founder of Inspired Minds, a conference co-organizer.

However, like all innovations and technologies, AI is neutral, and humans have to ensure that it is used for everyone’s benefit, others emphasized.

“In order for AI tools to actually impact health outcomes positively, the algorithms need to be diverse and inclusive,” Stephanie Kukku, of UCL Hospital, London, was quoted as saying in a presentation.

Using AI doesn’t necessarily lead to the empowerment of patients, one participant pointed out in a tweet:  “We need to acknowledge the real barriers patients are facing to accessing quality care.”



Image Credits: A Health Blog.