• Artificial intelligence in healthcare

    Artificial intelligence in healthcare - nigeria newspapers online
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    Artificial intelligence in healthcare

    Dr. Sylvester Ikhisemojie

    It is the belief of many thinkers that it is important to contemplate the intersection of artificial intelligence and healthcare from a perspective of compassion, wisdom, and human well-being. The advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to revolutionize healthcare in profound ways, offering both opportunities and challenges that we must approach thoughtfully and ethically. Therefore, the overall driving force for the implementation of these important advancements in the delivery of effective and positive healthcare should be responsibility for the outcome of any such interventions. Firstly, we must recognize the immense potential of AI in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery. AI-powered technologies can analyse vast amounts of data at speeds unimaginable to humans, leading to quicker and more accurate diagnoses. By incorporating AI into medical imaging, for example, we can enhance early detection of diseases such as cancer, ultimately saving more lives. Nowhere in medical practice is such new technology likely to be more disruptive than the recent development of an imaging device, small enough to fit into the palm and advanced enough to have its images available for interpretation on an iPhone or an Android device. It is described as potentially disruptive because it could challenge the traditional stethoscope for dominance. This device delivers real diagnosis in the outpatient clinic and at the patient’s bedside.

    Moreover, AI can assist healthcare professionals in making more informed decisions by predicting outcomes, personalizing treatment plans, and even aiding in surgical procedures. Such advancements have the power to not only improve patient outcomes but also alleviate the burden on healthcare systems by optimizing resource allocation and enhancing workflow efficiency. However, as we embrace the promise of AI in healthcare, it is crucial to remain mindful of the ethical considerations that arise. We must ensure that the use of AI is guided by principles of compassion, empathy, and respect for human dignity.  The deployment of AI should never overshadow the fundamental values of healthcare, wherein human professionals must bear the ultimate responsibility for making crucial decisions that are certain to be of maximum benefit to the individuals obtaining the required care. We must also reflect on the implications for the roles and responsibilities of healthcare professionals. While AI can augment and enhance the capabilities of healthcare providers, it cannot replace the essential human qualities that are central to healing and caregiving. Compassion, empathy, and ethical judgment are irreplaceable aspects of healthcare that must be cultivated and upheld in the age of AI. To be sure, the conference organized in 2023 by the United Kingdom on responsible use of AI went a long way to establish the ground rules for its deployment in the healthcare industry.

    The healthcare workforce faces challenges due to rising patient demands, aging populations, and workforce shortages in the principal advanced countries. AI can automate routine tasks, allowing healthcare professionals to focus more on patient care. This can improve staff morale and retention. Additionally, AI can assist in managing complex patient needs, shifting from episodic care to long-term care management. In resource-poor countries that have not even built an adequate infrastructure to deliver quality healthcare to their populations, AI could present them with the quantum leap they need to be at par with some of the more advanced nations of the world if political will permits. Such countries can leverage current technology and build robust systems that can sustain such improvements. Let us consider the really big hospitals we have in this country; they are typically the teaching hospitals and the federal medical centres. Some state-owned general and specialist hospitals also belong to that category. AI can revolutionize healthcare in such hospitals by enhancing patient care, improving efficiency, and streamlining workforce challenges. However, it must be implemented thoughtfully, considering both benefits and risks.

    Healthcare spending is not keeping up with demand without a shred of doubt. Without transformational change, healthcare systems may struggle to remain sustainable. AI can help reduce costs by optimizing resource allocation, improving operational efficiency, and preventing medical errors. Properly designed AI systems can make the healthcare system more efficient and less expensive. AI can improve access to care, especially for people in rural or underserved areas with limited medical professionals. For those people, telemedicine and AI-powered diagnostics can bridge gaps in healthcare access, providing timely services to remote populations. As a prelude to this important aspect of next-level care, virtual clinics as currently being run in many middle-income countries and emerging market economies, can help bridge that gap. But to make this even possible, there must be reliable internet services and a constant power supply, both of which services have remained elusive in our dear country. AI offers immense potential, and ethical debates surround its use. Questions constantly arise about data privacy, bias, and transparency. Similar concerns are routinely expressed about the safety of data from hostile breaches especially via the constantly increasing threat from malicious malware, many of which engage in identity theft that enables criminals to access more personal data.

    In any of the big hospitals that were mentioned above. One can imagine that the various health workers, who report at their various offices in the hospital say, at 8:00 AM, are present in the outpatient clinics within an hour. The doctors, for example, do not have to wait for the records clerks to look for patients’ files and arrange them on their desks before they can commence their work for the day. The system would already have sorted out those patients who should be seen in the clinic on any particular day and in a certain pecking order at intervals of fifteen minutes or thereabouts. There are no crowds, no pushing, and no angry words exchanged between patients, or angry tones of communication between patients who think their time has been wasted and their doctors or nurses. Every patient is comprehensively examined and educated about their ailments because there is adequate time for each person. Therefore, the system will make an allowance automatically for 12 to 15 patients three-hour sessions per day for each doctor, rather than the current system in which every patient who ought to be in the hospital on any particular day comes at the same time. What we currently see is that the outpatient clinics become a market characterized by noise and smells where patients and their relatives push each other while shouting at one another, and trying to demonstrate who came first and who did not. Sometimes, they even engage in physical altercations. All of this is due to desperation.

    Ensuring responsible AI deployment is crucial to avoid unintended consequences and protect patient well-being. Moreover, as we witness the rapid evolution of AI technologies, it is essential to engage in dialogue and collaboration across disciplines to ensure that AI is developed and applied in ways that uphold human values and promote social good. Interdisciplinary approaches that incorporate ethical, social, and cultural perspectives are vital in guiding the responsible integration of AI into healthcare. From a spiritual perspective, the integration of AI in healthcare invites us to reflect on the nature of healing and the interconnectedness of all beings. As we harness the power of technology to improve healthcare outcomes, let us not lose sight of the inherent humanity and interconnectedness that define the healing process. True healing encompasses not only the physical body but also the mind, heart, and spirit, drawing upon the power of compassion, empathy, and wisdom.

    In conclusion, the emergence of AI in healthcare presents both tremendous opportunities and significant challenges that must be approached with mindfulness, compassion, and ethical consideration. By embracing the potential of AI to enhance healthcare delivery and outcomes, while upholding human values and ethical principles, we can pave the way for a future where technology serves the greater good and advances the well-being of all citizens. We must continue to cultivate compassion, wisdom, and mindfulness in our exploration of AI in healthcare, ensuring that our pursuit of innovation is guided by a deep commitment to human flourishing and the alleviation of suffering.

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