There has been a surge of interest in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare in recent years. Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to transform the field of medicine. To be specific, AI will most likely improve access to healthcare and how patients are treated, but it will also optimise resource allocation, allowing health systems to function more effectively and efficiently. The potential for AI to reshape the field of healthcare, to aid in diagnosis and enable a more personalised precision approach to medicine is limitless.
African countries are taking significant steps towards shaping the future of healthcare through artificial intelligence some of the major examples are Nigerian startups such as Ubenwa is using signal processing and machine learning to improve the diagnosis of birth asphyxia in low-resource settings, South Africa has formed a partnership comprising researchers and a social enterprise which has been developing an AI planning application for optimising the scheduling of community health workers in communities in Africa. The other prime examples include, Tanzania and Zambia who are examining the use of a computer-aided diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis from chest radiographs through the CAD4TB whose performance compares well with that of human experts.
As COVID-19 continues to have an impact on the world, improving healthcare and the deployment of AI applications in the medical and clinical fields is more important than ever. AI-related technologies have proven to be central to the response to the global health crisis.
Some of the main applications of AI in medicine include the following:
- Drug Discovery
COVID-19 has provided real time insight into vaccine development process. Prior to the development of COVID-19 vaccines, vaccine and drug discovery processes are very manual, expensive, time-consuming, and often fruitless. The urgency of the need for a COVID-19 vaccine, led to more intentional machine learning and deep learning techniques to extract a cache of information from large compound databases to create vaccines and new drugs. The use of AI to implement innovative drug modeling based on the large nature of drug datasets is central to this shift. This capability results in a higher number of approved drugs in a faster, less expensive process with greater research and development efficiency. Indeed, Moderna, one of the companies that developed a COVID-19 vaccine, has been known to use AI in their vaccine discovery process.
- Disease Identification
Diagnostics is one of three major “investment zones” for artificial intelligence in healthcare, along with digitisation and engagement. AI promises more accurate diagnoses, which has the potential to save and improve the lives of millions of people. An operator uploads a medical image of an infected organ to an artificial intelligence program, the software then compares this image to millions of others featuring the same infected organ, one by one. It searches these images for patterns that are common to the infection/disease. If the image contains enough similar patterns, it is classified as positive for the similar infection. These AI-powered tools have recently achieved even greater accuracy than humans, thanks to the use of previously unimaginable amounts of computational power.
Some of the issues relating to the use of AI in medical practice is the determination of negligence in the use of the AI for the provision of medical services. AI may, due to insufficient data or other technical errors provide result that may not be accurate in some circumstances. In this regard, a medical practitioner may be charged for medical negligence. Additionally, there are data privacy issues surrounding the use of AI in the medical field.
Medical data is regarded as sensitive personal data and strict compliance with a country’s data protection regulation is needed in accessing, processing, collecting, storing, retrieving, securing and disposing such data. Additional security requirement is necessary in respect of medical data generated by the medical facilities in that country. Hence, in deploying AI enabled software for the delivery of medical services, relevant laws must be complied with.