With AI already the key engine for a growing list of consumer devices, the trend has created exciting opportunities for pharma and healthcare.
“We have now entered a new phase of AI implementation where AI-based technology is expected to be foundational and not just a novel technology,” Abid Rahman, vice president, innovation, Intouch Group, tells pharmaphorum. “We can put AI use cases in three buckets – healthcare and hospital systems, pharmaceutical companies and patient and caregivers.”
For healthcare systems, AI implementation will bring faster, more efficient diagnosis for medical imaging. Other promising benefits include administrative automation and population health risk analysis. AI technology may also aid in health crisis prediction and augmented reality, with AI implemented for medical education and surgical assistance.
For pharmaceutical companies, artificial intelligence can help spur drug discovery through finding complex relationships within genomics data. “Patients and caregivers will also benefit from real-time health monitoring, adherence support and patient self-service through intelligent bots,” says Rahman. “AI can play an important role to help support physicians though automation, predictive analytics and recommendation. In the US especially, doctors spend much of their time doing administrative tasks that can be automated to save time and reduce errors.
“We are already seeing pilots for treatment and diagnosis recommendations and automatic note taking through speech-to-text within EHR systems. AI based diagnostic image analysis is showing a lot of promise. In some cases, they are shown to be accurate and can find minute anomalies in images better than humans. These types of implementations will save time for the physicians and allow them to spend more quality time with the patients.”
Rahman says the primary challenges for artificial intelligence implementation occur in three key areas. The first is around data and technology. “Lack of interoperability across various healthcare systems is still an issue,” he explains. “It’s not always possible to access the data sources in an automated way. There is also legitimate concern with having the relevant opt-ins and waivers to ensure data is accessed and managed in a compliant manner. The quality of data can also be a concern.”
Bias in the data and lack of transparency can also show up during the AI training and deployment processes. “It is important to be careful about all the different ways bias in artificial intelligence can impact the outcome of the implementation. It is also important to show the reasons behind AI recommendations so that the physicians and patients can have a complete and transparent view.”
Organisational changes are also required as AI implementation often requires retraining and can change certain aspects of a job. “Change of any kind can generate some resistance. It is important to appropriately plan an AI implementation. Proper AI implementation requires people with the appropriate cross-domain knowledge. Cooperation across multiple teams is vital and not always easy to achieve.”
But as COVID-19 pushes every industry to use technology to solve challenges, pharmaceutical companies are being forced to change how they communicate with healthcare professionals and patients. New strategies around drug launches, use of telehealth, virtual patient events and virtual HCP conferences are all in place due to COVID-19 and Rahman believes the trend will continue.
“Pharma now more than ever before is ready to use AI to provide engagement, efficiency and customer support. The pandemic has also helped generate massive amounts of data from online events, blogs, forums etc,” he says.
“We are implementing AI based self-service and personalised solutions for both HCPs and patients. We have also seen computer vision-based AI technology become more popular to engage users. We are working on providing virtual bots within conferences so that HCPs can get the right information at their fingertips.”