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Healthcare experts endorse the AI revolution in medical practice

Healthcare experts endorse the AI revolution in medical practice
17 May 2024 09:34

SARA ALZAABI (ABU DHABI)

Whether through genetic testing, diabetes care, or embryology, artificial intelligence (AI) promises to have critical applications in the healthcare sector, with vast potential to improve personalised care plans, research, diagnosis, and treatment.


On the sidelines of Abu Dhabi Global Healthcare Week 2024, Aletihad spoke to a number of experts in various medical subfields about their expectations for the advanced technology’s potential to transform their specialties.


Genome Sequencing, Disorder DiagnosisDr. Laila AbdelWareth, CEO at the National Reference Laboratory (NRL), told Aletihad that AI’s advanced algorithms surpass human capabilities in informatics and cloud computing, leading to revolutionary applications in genetic testing and genome mapping.


According to AbdelWareth, AI has changed the game in genetics through its ability to reference masses of data to improve disorder diagnosis. Gene therapy, for example, can correct genetic defects such as sickle cell thalassemia by replacing defective bases with the correct ones, offering promising treatment prospects, she explained.


“You are dealing with not just hundreds, but actually millions of pieces of genetic information that need to be annotated, sifted through for relevance, and then cross-referenced with known disorders within the human genome to arrive at the most probable diagnosis. Previously, this process would have taken an indefinite amount of time for individuals to accomplish. However, with the assistance of AI, it can now be completed within a matter of hours,” she said.


“To illustrate, consider the initial attempt to sequence the human genome, which spanned over 10 years,” Dr. AbdelWareth continued, explaining that today, genome sequencing can be completed in just three hours.


“Machines are programmed to recognise specific patterns without fatigue. This leads to enhanced efficiency, manifested in reduced turnaround times and improved scalability.”


Dr. AbdelWareth also highlighted the importance of data security in preserving genetic information. “We have these machines that assist us in computations and so on. However, there must be checks and balances in place to ensure data security and confidentiality. This prevents data leakage or unauthorised access by individuals who lack the necessary expertise.” she said.


Personalised RecommendationsDr. Mai Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), part of M42 group, told Aletihad that AI integration in healthcare means the availability of tech tools to enhance patient care decisions.


In her view, AI’s most promising application in the health sector is its ability to provide personalised recommendations.


“By utilising the vast data available and creating the appropriate AI algorithm, it will help healthcare professionals detect diagnoses at an earlier stage, and more accurately and efficiently. This will lead to better outcomes and cost savings in the long runs,” Dr. Al Jaber said.


AI tools can also expand healthcare accessibility by reducing the need for physical visits through remote care. 


“Now, with AI tools and the capability for remote monitoring, we can decrease physical visits, enabling healthcare professionals to deliver care remotely. However, ethical and transparent implementation is essential when integrating AI tools into healthcare. Patient safety and privacy are paramount considerations,” Dr. Al Jaber noted.


She noted that the ICLDC is currently exploring AI tools to improve outcomes in diabetes control, with a focus on healthcare management and treatment in conjunction with operational efficiency and improving patients’ experience. 


For example, Dr. Al Jaber explained that the centre is currently working on an AI tool for retinal screening, which can enable the early detection of diabetes-related retinal problems. This technology has the potential to enhance chronic disease management and identify risk factors.


Assisting Decision-MakingJules McDonald, the Medical Director of Clinical Operations for HealthPlus Fertility, part of M42, told Aletihad that AI can revolutionise precision medicine in the fertility field.
In embryology, AI is currently being used to assist in decision-making and affirm accuracy, McDonald said, adding that her institution is the first in the Middle East to use AI to ensure correct embryo placement.


“The AI is an incredible tool that we have introduced… AI will not replace embryologists, but like with most AI tools, it is proof that you are making the right decision,” McDonald noted.


“There are even things like the Metaverse, which allows us to explore virtual clinics and hospitals without borders, enabling us to treat patients globally. We can offer our expertise through telehealth and AI technology to support patients,” she added.

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