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Artificial Intelligence Is Transforming Health Care Across Asia, Fuelled by Innovative Public-Private Sector R&D and a Focus on Domestic Health-Care Burdens

A new study by MIT Technology Review Insights in association with Baidu explores emerging use cases for artificial intelligence (AI) in Asia’s health-care ecosystems. The report, “AI in health care: Capacity, capability and the future of active health in Asia,” was produced by interviewing experts from around the region and visiting medical facilities in China to explore the new tools and platforms that are available to clinicians, patients, and care-givers.

The conclusions of the report are:

  • There are strategies emerging all across Asia for using AI to address a country’s unique health-care burdens. From increasing the capacity of general practitioners to correctly diagnose common conditions to advancing specialist skills to identify and treat complex diseases, patients and doctors across the region are benefiting from AI. Technology will increasingly focus on keeping populations healthy, as well as curing disease.

  • Asia’s health-care players should focus on the most challenging and widely-experienced issues in domestic and international health-care markets. An example is targeting dementia care in Japan, which afflicts 4% of its population. Enhancing resources and personnel will yield immediate results, as well as lay the groundwork for future breakthroughs.

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  • Governments should set audacious goals for private sector and academic research, as well as develop new models for industry collaboration to find health-care solutions. The Singapore government’s Grand Challenge is an example of targeted health-care AI R&D resourcing.

  • “The path towards transformative health-care AI lies in ensuring that these innovations are heavily benchmarked and evaluated, to ensure compliance with regulations. Successes in building domestic capabilities will be tremendously helpful for other markets, and create opportunities that can be exported regionally and globally,” says Xu Shan, a director at the Medical Big Data and Network Research Center, China Academy of Information and Communications Technology.

  • AI advances are essential, but so is ensuring algorithms and results are explainable by doctors to patients. It is ethically imperative that technology maintains a supporting role to the expertise of doctors and that final responsibility continues to lie with humans. Explainable AI and human-centric health care are important trends for the sector, demonstrated by leading industry players prioritizing the interpretability of AI solutions.

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“By 2030, the World Health Organization estimates that Asia will require 12 million more health-care professionals,” says Claire Beatty, editor of the report. “Without AI technologies for increasing capacity, systems simply will not cope. The combination of government goal-setting and private sector R&D is a really promising development for health-care innovation.”

“Potential applications of AI technology in health care continue to increase;” says Haifeng Wang, chief technology officer at Baidu, “From medical imaging analysis to assisted clinical decision-making; from hospital workflow management to health management outside hospitals; and from empowering doctors to empowering pharmaceutical companies. AI developments make high-quality medical resources more accessible, increase resource-sharing, and improve the efficiency of diagnosis and treatments.”

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