Artificial Intelligence for smart healthcare: Driving factors, current trends and future directions

Potential of smart technologies for our environment is huge: we are surrounded by different apps and smart devices – from recognition of fingerprints when we unlock our phone to suggestions which film we should watch next.

Healthcare systems are one of fields where smart technologies are especially necessary. Smart health systems use a new generation of information technologies to transform the traditional medical system in an all-round way, making healthcare more efficient, more convenient and more personalized. This is the main reason why future specialists in the health industry must be able to apply smart technologies very professionally.

Reflecting industry’s needs, the project ATHIKA was started two years ago and in the beginning of this year more than 180 international students were invited to gain knowledge in one of these fields: artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics, ethical and governance and internet of things (IoT). They participated in a three months online course which was divided into three units where students could improve their practical skills.

“I decided to register for the ATHIKA online module because I thought it will help me to understand the current challenges and opportunities facing healthcare better. I believe the biggest problem facing the health system is the burden of monitoring chronic conditions and the challenge of collecting, storing and analyzing large amounts of unstructured health data”, says student of the course Bilal Ali. According to him, the online training helped to think about challenges of the health systems and share ideas on how to overcome them.

In the first part of the ATHIKA course, named Fundamentals part, an overview of the three topics was delivered through a combination of online lectures, readings, videos, quizzes, laboratory assignments and work in groups.

The final stage of the course was the workshop. All students needed to choose one of three internaries and accept a challenge by entrepreneurs and develop necessary prototypes for business. All students were divided into groups of 3 to 4 members and there was one more opportunity to improve teamwork skills.

During the course Salman Mahmood together with the team and experts designed a system where the number of personal consultations for dietary related problems would be reduced using an AI which would automatically suggest changes in the patient’s diet.

“I think one of the biggest problems of the healthcare system is waiting time for appointments and follow up consultations. Our prototype would decrease the frequency of follow up consultations whilst simultaneously increasing the frequency of the patient’s diet review”, says Salman Mahmood.

During the course more smart solutions were created by other groups: Polypharmacy, Health ID, Home Remote Health Monitoring, Healthy route prediction, Diagnosis of Dietary related Illnesses, Mental eHealth, e-Consulting and Environmental eHealth solutions. Listed innovations were selected as innovative in their technological solutions, but also respecting humanistic perspective and ethical reflection.

According to Dr. Sana Ullah Jan and Prof. Naeem Ramzan, lecturers of the course, the biggest value of ATHIKA is to provide a platform to the students from different backgrounds that could enhance their understanding about the potential of state-of-the-art technologies including IoT and AI.

“Starting with the fundamental concepts, the students brainstormed about the applications of these technologies that have already provided fruitful results in terms of novel ideas that came from these minds. In addition, these scenarios and applications have been discussed in the light of governance and ethical limitations which have always been ignored in the debates”, says Dr. Sana Ullah Jan.

Today the internet is booming with cloud, big data, machine learning, deep learning, internet of things, artificial intelligence and help to do daily activities much more simpler. These technologies are bringing the world closer by integrating various systems and performing human-like tasks. According to Prof. Naeem Ramzan, digitalization will change not only health systems but also general understanding of how to live healthier lives.

“In this era of growing population, the current healthcare system is unable to fulfill the needs of modern society. There is a shortage of paramedic and medical staff and the healthcare facilities are not enough. The researchers have proposed an alternate solution in the form of proactive healthcare systems where the idea is to “keep people healthy” instead of the conventional “treat the sick people” culture, says Prof. Naeem Ramzan.

They added that smart systems will be developed based on AI that will provide medical assistance to the patients remotely with minimal human interventions unless there is an emergency which needs expert’s attention. Furthermore, AI systems would be applied in critical medical situations such as surgery. Providing such assistance will allow timely care to a wider range of patients that will ultimately help extend the lifetime of humans in near future.