Revolutionizing Healthcare with AI: The Benefits, Ethics, and Use in Sexual, Reproductive, Maternal Health and Epidemic Preparedness & Response
AC Alyzsa DY writes about the massive impact and potential of responsible AI in medicine. Read on to find out how healthcare is leveraging AI to help people faster, more efficiently, and with much greater ease than ever before.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a trending topic recently, and for good reason. As technology continually develops, AI’s function in healthcare is becoming more and more crucial. AI is being used more frequently in the healthcare sector, providing new and innovative approaches to improve patient outcomes and aid in the provision of high-quality treatment. It has the ability to fundamentally revolutionize the way that healthcare providers approach sexual, reproductive, and maternal health and epidemic and pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response.
In the context of sexual, reproductive, and maternal health, AI can play a critical role in the early detection and diagnosis of diseases. For instance, AI algorithms can examine medical images, such as those used in cervical cancer screenings, to find early indicators of diseases and help create individualized treatment plans that would best fit the patient. Lab Pulse shares AI’s importance in an article by Michael Quick (2021), strongly affirming that “…the availability of AI to help screen for cervical cancer has effectively promoted practitioners while improving result accuracy and ultimately saving lives. It also saves time, since the healthcare provider can focus on pinpointed areas of potential abnormality, rather than trying to examine hundreds of thousands of individual cells.”
This is especially crucial for developing countries and rural communities that may not have enough adequate access to health services and resources, as AI can help bridge the gap and assist in the early identification of diseases and help provide preventive interventions (WHO, 2021).
In the realm of epidemic and pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, AI can play a critical role in the early detection and rapid response to disease outbreaks. For example, AI algorithms can analyze large amounts of data, such as hospital records and patient information, to identify patterns and detect outbreaks before they become widespread (Wang et al., 2022). AI can help healthcare providers allocate resources more efficiently and respond more effectively to emergencies, reducing the impact of disease outbreaks on communities. In the case of widespread epidemics or pandemics, the use of AI through medical imaging, drug development, and disease prediction can be extremely advantageous, especially while hospitals and clinics combat the challenges of capacity overloading and personnel shortages.
With enough data, machine learning can also make reasonable predictions on how infectious diseases develop and help in decision-making to appropriately respond in emergency situations.
But is it safe?
Despite the great potential for its use and benefits, however, it is important to be guided by ethical and responsible principles when developing and deploying AI technologies to ensure their safe and fair use (Williams, 2022). Despite how AI algorithms are developed, there is still a possibility of unintended consequences which could harm more people than can benefit. AI has the potential to greatly benefit society, but it also carries significant risks, such as the possibility of discrimination, and the violation of privacy and human rights. To address this, Williams (2022) advocates that “Adopting a strong ethical framework enforced at a centralized level…could be key to creating trust and alleviating people’s fears about AI’s misuse, as well as creating a means of redress and accountability.” It is essential to consistently strive for fairness and non-discrimination in the development and operationalization of AI to ensure that its design is centered on respecting privacy and human rights. As maintained by Williams, AI developers and startups must consider that to create a responsible and ethical AI, developers must test for biases within their systems, provide as much diversified data, and constantly assess and amend their algorithms.
It is evident that AI has the potential to greatly benefit the healthcare industry, particularly in areas such as sexual, reproductive, and maternal health and epidemic and pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. As the world continues to propel healthcare and technologies forward through AI, Villgro Philippines aims to provide opportunities for startups in South and Southeast Asia in advancing healthcare systems through the responsible development and deployment of AI innovations. In the past few months of the year, the team has been continuously in search of AI innovators and entrepreneurs across the region to develop and scale innovations through sustainable business models to address our most pressing health problems.
Under the AI4Health Asia accelerator program, chosen startups will receive tailored and hands-on commercial, technical, and ethical training from domain experts to improve health systems in South and Southeast Asia. With AI4Health Asia set to kick off, the Villgro Philippines team is excited to unravel what Asian entrepreneurship has to offer that will transform the way Sexual, Reproductive, and Maternal Health as well as Epidemic and Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response are addressed across emerging Asian countries.
Are you working an entrepreneur working on cutting-edge AI solutions, an expert in AI and health tech, or looking to connect with AI-enabled startups? We are looking for startups, program mentors, and possible market linkages!
Reach out to ac@villgrophilippines to learn more about AI4Health Asia and how we can work together.
About the author: AC Alyzsa Dy is the Senior Program Associate — Incubation at Villgro Philippines. She manages end-to-end incubation and acceleration programs for various verticals such as Climate Action (SUP Challenge — Plastic-Free Philippines), Ways4Waste (in partnership with The Incubation Network), and Healthcare (AI4Health Asia). AC also serves as a portfolio manager and supports the climate space and the cohorts in the programs through linkages, mentorship, and tailored assistance.
Connect with AC at firstname.lastname@example.org