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October 4, 2018

Are Big Data And Artificial Intelligence A Game-Changer For Health?

Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have risen to become firmly on the radar of political and policy agendas at all levels. There is growing optimism around how Big Data and AI could help Europe’s healthcare systems, but, at the same time, there is growing uncertainty about the legal and ethical aspects of using Big Data and AI.

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During the European Health Forum Gastein EHFG (3-5 October, Austria) experts discuss new regulatory and technical frameworks that are needed to ensure that Big Data and AI can be used to deliver better outcomes to patients and healthcare systems. How Big Data and AI can be a resource for health system sustainability? What are the practical options to guarantee that innovations work for us, rather than against us? Are there threats we should be aware of?

Here’s what Europe’s leading health policy experts at the European Health Forum Gastein EHFG are saying about the health opportunities and challenges of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence.

Nicole Denjoy, COCIR Secretary General: “Artificial Intelligence is transforming healthcare in many ways: enhanced productivity, increased diagnostic accuracy, better personalised treatment planning and ultimately improved clinical outcomes. AI is definitely a game changer and our industry is at the fore-front with impressing range of solutions in current practice. It is critical for EU Member States and all stakeholders involved in healthcare (incl. healthcare professionals, patients, carers, regulators, insurers) to embrace and promote AI benefits in healthcare. Elements of high importance to be covered are also referring to transparency, ethics, respect to privacy principles and trust. It is a collective responsibility to co-create in an optimal environment to allow sustainable promotion and adoption of AI.”

Professor McKee, Professor of European Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine:  “Just like nuclear fission, artificial intelligence is a tool that can be used for good or ill. What is important is how it is used. AI offers many potential benefits, but we need to be cautious about many of the exaggerated claims made for it.  There are risks associated with AI and we need to have clarity about who is accountable when things go wrong, as they inevitably will. The priorities for society must be, first, to ensure that the benefits outweigh the harms and, second, to ensure that AI genuinely empowers ordinary people rather than an invisible elite.”

Lives and a lot of money are wasted simply due to a lack of data.

Stefan Gijssels, Executive Director of Digestive Cancers Europe and EuropaColon: “Today, lives and a lot of money are wasted simply due to a lack of data. In the future, we will be able to aggregate data in such a way that we understand how many people survive their cancer and why. We will be able to evaluate which best practices led to their survival and what can be done to adopt these best practices everywhere. Today hundreds of thousands of digestive cancer patients in Europe die needlessly, and billions of euros are wasted in the healthcare system due to a complete lack of up-to-date and accurate data. Big data will make the whole system much more effective and efficient’.

Clayton Hamilton, Division for Health Systems and Public Health, WHO Regional Office for Europe: Through its capability to correlate huge amounts of data across many areas and sectors, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) offer health unprecedented opportunities to improve policy and decision-making, identify causes and map the spread of disease, design more effective and sustainable health systems, and advance human learning and development.

We must however ensure a progressive and cautious approach to AI adoption in health that establishes public trust and addresses key underlying issues of data quality, sharing and governance together with ethics, safety, bias & transparency.

By collectively examining the public health benefits of AI adoption and looking to the broadest possible examples of its application in the health domain, we all stand to benefit from the innovations that AI will bring, and ultimately, the improvements it will contribute to the health and well-being of populations.

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