AI is transforming healthcare as we know it: Arab Health 2020

AI is transforming healthcare as we know it: Arab Health 2020
Copyright  euronews
By Jim OHagan

The recent outbreak of the coronavirus has shown us that our global health system is only as strong as its weakest link.

The key to stemming the spread of such illnesses lies in bolstering connectivity and communication between health bodies and that’s precisely the theme here at Arab Health 2020.

Artificial intelligence means medical bodies can link up their data and act quickly in a crisis.

"As emergency physicians and practitioners we’re often on the frontline. But I’ll give you an example of how technology and AI may help outbreaks, not just Coronavirus, but for seasonal influenza," says Dr Jacques Kobersy, emergency medicine institute chair, Cleveland Hospital Abu Dhabi.

"When you have an organisation like WHO who are alerted to the fact that there is some new virus circulating, Artificial intelligence might give us the opportunity to flag that those unusual symptoms are occurring way before human clinicians and departments of health realize it. And help us get ahead of these sort of pandemics maybe a month or so ahead of time before they really fester."

55,000 attendees from 159 countries have touched down in Dubai to showcase and learn about the life-changing and groundbreaking technologies poised to transform healthcare as we know it. 

Autonomous ambulances

Soon, AI could make autonomous ambulances that automatically arrive at a patient’s house as soon as something’s wrong.

"We call it a smart ambulance. The high-risk patient, they will start to wear wearable devices. Let's say something happened to that patient. These devices will start to send all the vital data to the system and the hospital. So the physician, he can monitor all the data and monitor the patient 24 hour," says Dr Rashid al Hashimi - youth council member, UAE ministry of health (mohap).

In the future, the ambulance will be auto-drive. So it will go directly to the patient. While they are moving all these signals will be green for them. 

When the patient enters the ambulance, there will be some high-resolution cameras. They will detect the patient's face and will give all the data which is very important for the rescuers to help the patient.

While they are going to the hospital, there will be like a virtual doctor inside the ambulance.

AI implants

AI is already powering implants that can monitor patients’ vitals around the clock.

"We can put devices under the skin and telemonitor heart patients even at home. We have put this device on 30 patients," says Dr Noor al Muhairi, head of medical services, hospital dept (mohap).

"One of them was in London. And we saw that we have an abnormality in his heart. And we called them directly and told him, go to the nearest hospital and this saved him."

And unprecedented advancements in stem-cell research mean damaged heart cells can now be regrown.

"In treatment, we collaborated with Osaka University, where they have done a study on stem cells that have been generated to cardiac cells. You can bring stem cells to make the heart cells regenerate," says Dr Muhairi.

"So this is one of the latest technology in heart treatment and in collaboration with Japan, we are going to do a clinical study here in the Ministry of Health."

Analysing wounds

Meanwhile, image analysis of wounds using machine learning can now prevent amputations caused by diseases like diabetes.

"This machine is checking the healing process for the diabetic foot. It will give us the results within 30 seconds. We are just scanning for the wound.2

"There is information going back 15 years in this machine. So it will check with other types of wound and it will analyze for us exactly the problem. We can prevent amputations from the complication of diabetes," says Dr Halima el Shehhi, the emergency department unit manager at the ministry of health and prevention, UAE. 

Whether it's artificial intelligence, new equipment, new abilities to analyze patients and treat them, things that we could only imagine a few years ago now have come to fruition.

Soon the days of treating illnesses after they occur will give way to an age of truly preventative healthcare.

Journalist • Jim OHagan