Luckily, it wasn’t treating patients
As AI takes control and robots push us to one side, can we really rely on these smart machines? Maybe we can, if we allow them some degree of human frailty.
A security robot drowned itself by diving, or maybe only stumbling, into a shopping centre and office block’s ornamental pool in aptly named Georgetown Waterfront, pun intended, Washington DC. Fortunately, it didn’t make it through medical school, so wasn’t operating on patients at the time.
The Knightscope security robot bid farewell to all around, and added a poignant extra meaning to Shakespeare’s anguish expressed by Hamlet:
“For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.”
If it senses a threat, it can squeak, whistle and make other loud alarming noises to deter criminals and nuisances. It can withstand attacks too. It can’t swim. It rejected John Lennon’s advice, that “When you're drowning, you don't say 'I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me,' you just scream.” Eye witnesses said they weren’t sure if it was waving, drowning or just cooling off.
It looks like it’s back to the drawing board. Maybe it should be a surf board.
- 508 views
- July 19, 2017
- Tom Jones
Africa’s eHealth isn’t far behind South America and Mexico
Africa’s eHealth has a different profile to the average for South America and Mexico, but it’s not trailing significantly. Comparing findings from the WHO and GEO’s Global eHealth Survey 2015 shows similar simple coverage rates of just over a third. A global average’s near 50%.
Perhaps the most important difference’s the emphasis on Big Data. South America and Mexico are at about 12%. Africa’s at about 2%. The survey didn’t ask for data about Artificial Intelligence (AI) or coverage of cyber-security. It doesn’t provide data about the quality, sophistication or maturity of the coverage. It’s not easy data to assemble, quantify or analyse.
Suffice to say, it highlights the need for Africa’s health systems to catch up on AI. A first step may be using their existing data more extensively. A second may be supporting public health specialists and clinical teams in local AI initiatives. The comparison seems to indicate no need for a sudden rush. A steady, imaginative plod along the AI road should be sufficient.
- 479 views
- May 18, 2017
- Tom Jones
eHealth's AI can benefit healthcare’s operational activities
Realising benefits from eHealth’s the essential goal. These can be for patients, communities, health workers, healthcare providers and health systems. AI in eHealth’s changing the opportunities.
A report from Tableau Software, based in Seattle, sets out four ways that AI benefits healthcare. Four ways data is improving healthcare operations says, under the over-arching goals of lower cost and better care, they’re:
- Enabling population health management
- Increasing productivity
- Aggregating and blending data to reveal supply chain inefficiencies
- Automating visual analysis for better revenue cycle management.
Achieving these depends on an appropriate eHealth approach. Tableau says the biggest problem’s not acquiring more data, it’s how healthcare organisations simplify their data to a point at where it’s not a technical construct. This leads to decision takers easily understanding where their organisations are, then identifying and moving in a common, appropriate direction.
This may be true for US healthcare, but Africa doesn’t have comparable data volumes yet. An important lesson for Africa’s health systems seems to be to pursue parallel investment tracks of simultaneously making better use of its data and implementing more eHealth solutions.
- 392 views
- May 16, 2017
- Tom Jones
Bouy determines a person’s medical condition
Doctors and computer scientists in Boston and New York have developed , a free AI platform. It helps people to use their symptoms to determine their medical conditions and make better decisions. The eHealth tool began in 2014 at the Buoy’s co- founder and CEO, says currently, medical information provided by simplistic web symptom checkers are often risky and unreliable. To overcome these limitations, Buoy leverages advanced machine learning algorithms to provide personalised and accurate analyses and diagnoses to users so they can quickly and easily have more control of their healthcare.
Bouy asks users to enter their ages, genders, and symptoms. It then asks a few questions, such as the severity of their symptoms and their durations. It uses this information to analyse against millions of medical records to generate other important, more specific questions. After two to three minutes of analysis, Buoy has an accurate and detailed understanding of users’ conditions. It will then recommend appropriate healthcare alternatives. If immediate treatment’s needed, it provides directions on how to connect with a nearby healthcare providers.
An articleeHealth news says Bouy’s been through a battery of quality control tests. The result’s that it can accurately analyse a wide range of symptoms, such as common colds, abdominal pains and how a change of running shoes has created muscular or skeletal issues.
The study tried to determine how Buoy interprets a cough compared the top five web-based symptom checkers. It examined 100 standardised cases involving 33 different diagnoses with severity ranging from life-threatening pulmonary embolisma to benign, normal cough. Prevalence was assessed too, ranging from rare histoplasmosis to common cold. Results were that Buoy’s analyses were 92% accurate as compared to at 56%, at 53%, at 38% and at 28%. Buoy has over 5,000 users and is available as an app on and directly from .
- 660 views
- May 15, 2017
- Gontse Ramela
UK’s Babylon Health raises US$25m for AI for remote medical consultation
Access to doctors in Africa’s a persistent challenge. There aren’t enough of them. For many African’s, the journeys are long and costly and queues are long. Artificial Intelligence (AI) may soon offer a solution.
Babylon Health, a UK start-up, has raised US$25m from AB Kinnevik, a Swedish investment group, to develop AI in its mHealth app for people to access medical advice. Demis Hassabis and Mustafa Suleyman, the founders of Deepmind, are Babylon’s advisers. An article in the Financial Times says its new investment means it can hire scientists and computer engineers to develop an AI version of its app.
Babylon’s a subscription health service already has 150,000 registered users. Sixty companies have incorporated it into their employee health plans. It’s also in talks with the UK’s NHS. Its app has several functions. Users can:
- Video conference with one of the company’s 100 doctors
- Monitor health
- Book appointments
- Order medical tests.
With the AI version, users can speak into their phone. AI in Babylon’s system then asks them a series of questions about symptoms to determine a course of action. The goal’s to establish a way to use people’s mobile phones to provide most of the healthcare they need straight to them. It’s the equivalent of a parallel version of Google providing information to users’ requests.
Its role in healthcare is to screen patients. It doesn’t replace doctors with machines, but directs patients to health professionals when they need it. Tech Crunch (TC) reports that Babylon has curated the largest knowledge graphs of medical content. It’s part its advances in deep learning techniques adapted specifically for healthcare.
Dr Ali Parsa, Babylon’s founder and CEO says “Artificial intelligence together with ever increasing advances in medicine means that the promise of global good health is nearer than most people realise. Babylon scientists predict that we will shortly be able to diagnose and foresee personal health issues better than doctors, but this is about machines and medics co-operating not competing. Doctors do a lot more than diagnosis: artificial intelligence will be a tool that will allow doctors and health care professionals to become more accessible and affordable for everyone on earth. It will allow them to focus on the things that humans will be best at for a long time to come.”
Babylon has two values, taught by experts, driven by data. Its AI technology’s taught by its own doctors providing trustworthy medical advice. People’s health data’s analysed continuously and cross-referenced with other patients to ensure they have the right results whenever they need them.
This global goal’s welcome news for Africa. It could be a huge step up for mHealth’s role in reaching and providing access to whole communities.
- 554 views
- May 05, 2017
- Tom Jones
AI and Big Data will transform healthcare
There’s a substantial progression of digital capacity in which data is produced and stored. In 2013, the amount of available digital data encompassed 4.4 zettabytes and it is estimated to reach 44 zettabytes, which is 44 trillion gigabytes, or ten times more by 2020. There is no denying that the world of Big Data’s enormous. Healthcare’s challenge is how to make best use of it.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a vital and increasing part of it. It’s quickly becoming a necessity for healthcare. AI’s already widely used in everyday life. It’s in cars, Google searches, Amazon suggestions and other devices, but is yet to extend towards large-scale, routine AI for sophisticated activities such as healthcare and its clinical decisions.
AI services such as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s OK Google, and Amazon’s Echo can extract questions from speech using natural-language processing and perform limited set of useful things, such as looking for restaurants, provide directions, find an open slot for a meeting, or run a simple web search. In addition, a 19-year-old British programmer launched a bot last September which is successfully helping people to appeal their parking tickets. It’s an “AI lawyer” that sorts received parking tickets. In both London and New York, the bot has a success rate of 64%, which translate to 160,000 of 250,000 parking tickets successfully appealed.
The same efficiency is essential in healthcare. An article in Medical Futurist reports that in years to come, AI in healthcare and medicine may organise patient pathways and treatment plans, and provide doctors with all information they need to make better informed decision. Several companies have a stake in AI in healthcare. They include Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Hitachi Data Systems, Luminoso, Alchemy API, Digital Reasoning, Highspot, Lumiata, Sentient Technologies, Enterra, IPSoft and Next IT. Their ultimate goal is to transform medicine and healthcare in way that ensures that it’s widely available to the average, mainstream users and not only the richest medial institutions or to a handful of experts.
AI’s used in several areas in healthcare. It includes mining medical records, designing of medical plans and medication management. Googles AI research branch in cooperation with the Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London has launched a Google Deepmind Health project. It mines medical records to help to provide better and faster health services.
This year, a British subscription, online medical consultation and health service launched . It offers medical AI consultation based on personal medical history and common medical knowledge. Users report the symptoms of their illness to the app, which checks them against a database of diseases using speech recognition. After taking into account the patients’ histories and circumstances, Babylon offers appropriate courses of action. The app also reminds patients to take their medication and finds out how they’re feeling.
Molly was the first virtual nurse developed by Sense.ly medical start-up. It aims to help people to monitor their condition and treatment. Nurses use machine learning to support patients with chronic conditions in-between doctor’s visits. Customised monitoring and follow-up care is part of its service too, with a strong focus on chronic diseases.
The AiCure app maintained by The National Institutes of Health monitors patients’ medication compliance. It uses a smartphone’s webcam and AI to confirm patients’ medication ingestion and helps them to manage their conditions.
AI still has a long way to go. It will be exciting to see how Africa’s health systems adopt it in their eHealth strategies and use it to transform health and healthcare.
- 758 views
- April 05, 2017
- Gontse Ramela
AI predicts heart failure
Heart failure’s not always easy to predict. CADence, described in eHNA post, shows how difficult it can be and how eHealth can help. Now, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help too. It can save lives by identifying patients who need more aggressive treatment, says the UK's Medical Research Council (MRC) team in an article in BBC News. Technology’s advanced so much that AI can now calculate accurately when patients with heart disorders will die. The software can to do this by analysing blood tests and scans of beating hearts to spot signs that show they’re about to fail.
Researchers, at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences, were investigating patients with pulmonary hypertension, raised blood pressure in arteries supplying the lungs. Results indicate that high blood pressure in the lungs damages part of the heart, and about a third of patients die within five years of being diagnosed.
The AI software helps doctors to predict how long the patients will live. The data improves informed clinical decisions, leading to more precisely prescribed and individually tailored intensive treatments, such as drugs, injections into blood vessels or in extreme cases, lung transplants if necessary.
The AI was given MRI scans of 256 patients' hearts, and blood test results. The software measured movement of 30,000 different points in the hearts’ structures during each heartbeat. Data was coupled with eight years of patient’s health records. AI learned which abnormalities predicted when patients would die.
It estimated up to approximately five years into the future, with an 80% potential to predict whether people would live beyond a year. This’s a third better than doctors performance of 60% accuracy. Researches want to use AI for other forms of heart failure such as cardiomyopathy, diseased of heart muscles, to see who needs pacemakers or supplementary treatments. They also hope to test AI on other patients in several hospitals to assess whether it should be widely available to doctors.
eHNA’s previously posted about AI revolutionising healthcare. Pulmonary hypertension might be a good place for Africa’s health systems to start.
- 905 views
- March 15, 2017
- Gontse Ramela
Libratus AI has a good poker face
Artificial Intelligence (AI) may have a big role in Africa’s eHealth strategies. eHNA’s already posted that AI’s good at diagnosing cancer. An article in Wired says it’s hugely successful at poker too. It’s a big step forward for AI.
From the 1940s, chess was the test of AI. It’s a game of structured rules that computers could learn. AI for poker’s more demanding. To succeed, it has to outmanoeuvre other players’ bluffs and intuition and deal with only partial information about the state of each game too, which aren’t structured or rule-based. Libratus, built by Brown and Sandholm, two computer science researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, did it. More importantly, it learned while it was playing, using reinforcement learning, a method of extreme trial and error. It played numerous games against itself.
For twenty straight days, it played no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em, a complex poker with betting strategies stretching overs dozens of hands. It beat four of the world’s top players. Libratus relied on three different systems working together. This’s typical for modern AI that needs several technologies. During the games, a second system analysed the state of play and focused attention of the first system so it didn’t have to run through all the possible scenarios from the past. Libratus didn’t just learn before the match. It learned while it was playing.
Libratus’ could still win, but also be beaten by top class players who could find patterns of play from these two systems. A third system ran an algorithm that identified the patterns overnight and removed them.
The AI initiative’s seen as having an important, wide ranging role. One is in cyber-security. Clinical diagnostics are others. Is it the next big thing for Africa’s health and healthcare?
- 655 views
- March 09, 2017
- Tom Jones
AI’s revolutionising healthcare
In 2016, supercomputer IBM Watson diagnosed a rare form of leukaemia in a patient at a hospital linked to Tokyo University. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and operating on the cloud, IBM Watson can cross reference and analyse data from millions of international oncology papers. From this data, it can extract information much faster than humans ever can. Evidence of its capabilities were reported by the University when IBM Watosn correctly diagnosed a Japanese woman in ten minutes.
Health advances initially seen as futuristic, like virtual avatars and chatbots, are quickly becoming a reality. An article in The Irish Times, says these technologies apply AI to match discussions with people, connect to the Internet and perform tasks that normally require human intelligence.
Sensley’s an example. It’s a mobile triage mHealth app currently being tested by the UK’s NHS. Sensley has an AI nurse that guides patients through their personal healthcare needs. It’s available all day, every day. Dressed in blue NHS scrubs, Seneley collects information by listening and asking questions similar to interactions between a clinicians and patients. Richard Corbridge, the developer and chief executive of eHealth Ireland says “Things are moving so fast that technologies we would have regarded as sci-fi last year, will become a reality this year. Over the last couple of years, Ireland has made some really big strides in digital healthcare.”
Corbridge believes that by 2019, all Irish maternity hospitals will be using advanced monitoring technology for newborns. Every newborn will have three devices in their cot, monitoring respiration, temperature and heart rate. Information will transfer automatically to their EHRs. In Healthcare Dive Corbridge says instead of constantly checking these levels individually, nurses will have a tablet to monitor the vital information and requests for tests, scans and results.“It’s an amazing leap for Ireland in a short space of time,” says Corbridge.
Will Africa’s health systems use AI soon too? Their eHealth strategies should now include a section on medium term plans for adopting AI.
- 855 views
- February 20, 2017
- Hlobisile Vilakazi
AI’s good at diagnosing skin cancer
Conventionally, skin cancer’s primarily diagnosed visually. It starts with a clinical screenings, then, if needed, followed by dermoscopic analyses, a biopsies and histopathological examinations. A team mainly from Stanford University, California, has reported in Nature that mHealth can provide an alternative. It’s a technological step up for Africa’s mHealth.
Classifying skin lesions using images is challenging, owing to fine-grained variabilities in their appearance. Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN) offer potential for dealing with fine-grained object categories. The team demonstrates skin lesion classifications using a single CNN, trained end-to-end directly from images using only pixels and disease labels as inputs. Trained CNN used a dataset of 129,450 clinical images and 2,000 skin lesions.
Its performance was tested against 21 dermatologists using proven clinical images from biopsies in two use cases:
- Keratinocyte carcinomas versus benign seborrheic keratosis, identifying the most common cancers
- Malignant melanomas versus benign nevi, identifying deadliest skin cancer.
CNN achieved performance in both use cases that matched all tested experts. It shows that the algorithms in Artificial Intelligence (AI) can classify skin cancer as well as dermatologists. Equipped with CNN, mHealth can potentially extend dermatologists’ reach beyond their clinics. An impact is lower-cost universal access to vital diagnostic services.
As healthcare researcher teams extend AI across other conditions, it offers Africa’s mHealth initiatives a much wider role and impact. It seems that mHealth can have much more to offer.
- 676 views
- February 07, 2017
- Tom Jones
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