Editor's Focus

Artificial Intelligence In Healthcare: The Nigerian Narrative No One Is Talking About

Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare is breaking bounds and further constriction the world-space, by providing practical alternatives to how we live, relate, and communicate. 

The Doctors-Patients relationship  and advancing treatment protocols are strong pointer to this.

In advanced economies, machines are doing so much more like giving suggestions to doctors about treating their patients, a scene straight from a sci-fi movie and a fantasy of the healthcare community, is increasingly becoming a reality now. However, some certain segment of the world are still stuck in the old ways, or are progressing at snail’s speed.

Take the example of British Prime Minister Theresa May announcing that the United Kingdom will invest heavily into artificial intelligence technology to improve healthcare.

The details are not clear, but UK’s National Health Service has been compiling data on millions of patients for many years and it may prove to be a great resource to train artificial intelligence systems to spot diseases and to do the epidemiologic analysis.

The Britons are breaking into new terrains by planning right and timely, in its quest for more actionable roles for Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare.

What Is Artificial Intelligence In Healthcare?

Artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare is the use of algorithms and software to approximate human cognition in the analysis of complex medical data.

AI is the ability for computer algorithms to approximate conclusions without direct human input.

AI programs have been developed and applied to practices such as diagnosis processes, treatment protocol development, drug development, personalized medicine, and patient monitoring and care.

Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare (Ai in Healthcare) has been applied to fields in radiology, Telehealth, cardiology etc. But there are still several obstacles that significantly impede its rapid adoption, and this must be overcome.

A key obstacle remains low investment into how AI can safely and successfully augment healthcare and research. Far greater collaboration across different disciplines and geographies is also needed to fully realize AI’s potential.

Other obstacles include a robust regulatory framework that ensures the consumers gets value for money, and to keep the Ai companies in check.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION IN ADVANCED ECONOMIES…

In a first of its kind move, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently gave green signal to market IDx-DR, a medical device to detect diabetic retinopathy, a disease in which high blood sugar damages blood vessels in the retina of eyes and leads to the vision loss.

Made by the US-based IDx LLC, the software analyses images of the eye taken by a camera and tells the doctor accurately about the extent of the disease, called as ‘diabetic retinopathy’.

Approved last month, this is the first approval in the area of artificial intelligence that can potentially replace a specialized doctor to interpret medical imagery and decide on the medical outcome.

This week, the FDA gave go ahead to Boston-based Beta Bionics, which has a partnership with Novo Nordisk, to test its  autonomous bionic pancreas that employs artificial intelligence to vary hormone doses in adults and children with Type 1 diabetes.

Beta Bionics’ iLet device, an infusion pump that mimics functions of a pancreas, can deliver required quantity of insulin with artificial intelligence to calculate and decide the dose delivery, based on the body weight and data with the help of a glucose monitor. The product is expected to reach markets by 2020.

Early this year, the FDA had approved a clinical decision support software that uses AI algorithms to help neurovascular specialists gauge brain deterioration.

In India, the digital therapeutics and AI in healthcare is yet to catch up. Recently, Microsoft and Apollo Hospitals’ group had partnered to create an AI based data network in cardiology.

THE NIGERIAN NARRATIVE:

Being the one the largest economy on the African continent has its perks but the application of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare seems to be a tall order.

Over, the last five years however, there have been a noticeable substantial increase in Tele-Medicine companies in the Nigerian Health Sector. Industry experts believe that these new tele-medicine companies have not even begun to scratch the surface of what Ai means.

Telemedicine is the critical footprint of Ai in Nigeria’s healthcare sector. Private companies and government supervised telemedicine outfits keep springing up daily. Yet they face enormous challenges.

A few new Nigeria-based telemedicine companies, deploying innovative health technology solutions includes Talk2MeDoc, Dokilink, etc. With dedicated staffers and professionals, these new telemedicine companies are gradually but definitely changing the Nigerian narrative. There services/solution do not have the advanced robotic features of an Ai.

Though commendable, the health solutions they provide do not have the typical robotic features of Ai as seen in movies. They are basically leveraging technologies to meet the health needs of Nigerians.

Sources say most of the leading drug makers in the world like Pfizer, GSK and Novartis have ongoing projects, in partnership with AI specialized companies and related drug discovery start-ups, to develop new drugs.

The global digital therapeutics market, which includes apps, mobile health tools and related products, was estimated at $1.7 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow at 21 per cent compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2017 to 2025 to $9.4 billion by 2025, estimate various research agencies. Nigeria must take advantage of this.

So far over a dozen “prescription digital therapeutics” companies working in the area of diabetes management, cocaine and substance abuse, cardio vascular diseases etc., have come up in Nigeria. Better organizations and good corporate governance should be the next phase for this fast emerging market/sector.

But the greatest fear of these telemedicine (digital and telehealth) companies is the near-stagnant adoption rate of their products by users despite a government sponsored data that suggests Nigeria’s internet penetration rate is increasing exponentially.

Could it be that users feel telemedicine solutions and services are expensive and are reserved for the rich? Or could it be that the Nigerian socio-cultural life is not yet advanced enough to accommodate the ‘real’ Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare? Will a ‘real’ Artificial Intelligence Ai survive in Nigeria?

Sincerely… this is an answer you should not be in a haste to give a ‘YES’.

 

 

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The Admin is a Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria Certified Medical Doctor, with profound expertise in Medical Content Creation and Medical Citizen Journalism. He is popular for being a fast rising online voice in Nigeria, with a flair for animated writing. He is a professional health content writer. He loves to swim, read and play board games. He see himself as one who is destined to play a role in the way health services are rendered to the human race.
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