The data revolution: Transforming healthcare now.
Do data and artificial intelligence (AI) have the power to change the world?
In the healthcare space, they are revolutionising how disease is detected, diagnosed and treated, as well as how we care for ourselves and others.
AI is helping to detect and diagnose strokes, cancer and even difficult-to-diagnose diseases like fibromyalgia, a condition in which there is no apparent medical reason for the pain and fatigue felt by sufferers.
A diagnosis of fibromyalgia used to take, on average, seven years and appointments with ten different specialists.
But last year researchers used AI to differentiate the brain scans of those with fibromyalgia from those not suffering from the disease—within minutes and with 93% accuracy.
Beyond diagnosis, using AI to decode the brain signature for fibromyalgia could help doctors to understand the disease better and figure out which treatments will work for which patients.
But the use of these technologies also raises fundamental questions about data ownership and privacy, and whether we are happy turning decision-making over to the machines.
Health insurance providers are using the data collected by wearables – as well as publicly available and purchasable information like shopping records and social media profiles – to gain a better understanding of our lifestyles and encourage us to be healthier. Some are nudging us with the promise of discounts and other incentives if we give them access to this information. Similarly, information from genetic testing about our predispositions gives us the chance to modify our behaviour and work with our doctors with the aim of preventing disease.
This is presented as a win-win situation: people are healthier, and insurers pay out less in medical expenses. But what if the information collected is used not to reward but to penalise, or to discriminate and deny treatment or coverage?