AI promises to be a boon to medical practice, improving diagnoses, personalizing treatment, and spotting future public-health threats. By 2024, experts predict, healthcare AI will be a nearly $20 billion market, with tools that transcribe medical records, assist surgery, and investigate insurance claims for fraud. Even so, the technology raises some knotty ethical questions. What happens when an AI system makes the wrong decision--and who is responsible if it does? How can clinicians verify, or even understand, what comes out of an AI "black box"?
Imagine there was a simple test to see whether you were developing Alzheimer's disease. You would look at a picture and describe it, software would assess the way you spoke, and based on your answer, tell you whether or not you had early-stage Alzheimer's. It would be quick, easy, and over 90% accurate--except for you, it doesn't work. That might be because you're from Africa. Imagine most of the world is getting healthier because of some new technology, but you're getting left behind.
Heralded as an easy fix for health services under pressure, data technology is marching ahead unchecked. But is there a risk it could compound inequalities? When Adewole Adamson received a desperate call at his Texas surgery one afternoon in January 2018, he knew something was up. The call was not from a patient, but from someone in Maryland who wanted to speak to the dermatologist and assistant professor in internal medicine at Dell Medical School in the University of Texas about black people and skin cancer. Over the next few weeks, over a series of phone calls, Adamson would learn a lot about the caller.
Healthcare is undoubtedly one of the most crucial sectors for any nation, and obviously a matter for governmental and the private sector's focus. The healthcare system is tasked to ensure that society stays healthy at a reasonable expense. The way healthcare organisations are managed impacts the professional growth and satisfaction of doctors, nurses, counsellors and other healthcare professionals. Yet healthcare is often under resourced; can innovations within the industry reduce costs and improve outcomes? Emerging technology is completely transforming the business models of hospitals and health providers, changing the work of care professionals forever.
When Regina Barzilay had a routine mammogram in her early 40s, the image showed a complex array of white splotches in her breast tissue. The marks could be normal, or they could be cancerous--even the best radiologists often struggle to tell the difference. Her doctors decided the spots were not immediately worrisome. In hindsight, she says, "I already had cancer, and they didn't see it." Over the next two years Barzilay underwent a second mammogram, a breast MRI and a biopsy, all of which continued to yield ambiguous or conflicting findings. Ultimately she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, but the path to that diagnosis had been unbelievably frustrating. "How do you do three tests and get three different results?" she wondered.