Deep Dive: Artificial Intelligence

5th November 2020

Implementing AI in health​; success beyond the buzzword  


AI has the potential to transform how care is delivered. It can support improvements in care outcomes, patient experience and access to healthcare services. It can increase productivity and the efficiency of care delivery and allow healthcare systems to provide more and better care to more people. AI can help improve the experience of healthcare practitioners, enabling them to spend more time in direct patient care and reducing burnout. Finally, it can support the faster delivery of care, mainly by accelerating diagnosis time and help healthcare systems manage population health more proactively, allocating resources to where they can have the largest impact.

The implications of introducing and scaling AI in healthcare have been much debated in recent years. The full potential of AI is still being discussed, but questions have been raised about its potential impact on practitioners and certain specialities, while issues around ethics, use of personal data and AI-related risks are also being debated. At the same time, healthcare investments in AI are increasing, creating or accentuating disparities in the adoption of innovation in healthcare, and raising questions around the role that health systems, public and private payers and individual healthcare practitioners can, or should, play in ensuring citizens fully reap the benefits of AI.

Through ongoing initiatives – such as the EIT Health Think Tank Round Table Series - we continue to drive forward discussion and debate on the impact of AI on European healthcare. As part of this focus, the EIT Health Summit Series will host a day dedicated to the topic on 24 November, where Jorge Juan Fernández (EIT Health) will convene with Dr John Halamka (Mayo Clinic Platform) and Dr Bertalan Meskó (The Medical Futurist) to discuss the opportunities AI presents for the healthcare field and debate the challenges and barriers to its successful implementation at scale across Europe. 

The Medical Futurist

Dr Bertalan Meskó is perhaps better known as The Medical Futurist. As the director of The Medical Futurist Institute, he analyses how science fiction technologies can become a reality in medicine and healthcare. The self-proclaimed geek physician - with a PhD in genomics - is also an Amazon Top 100 author and a professor at Semmelweis Medical School in Budapest.

With 500+ presentations under his belt - including courses at Harvard, Stanford and Yale, Singularity University's Futuremed course at NASA’s Ames campus, and presenting to organisations that include the ten biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world - he is one of the top voices globally on healthcare technology.

He has been featured by the World Health Organisation, the BBC, CNN, National Geographic, Forbes and the New York Times, has a YouTube channel with almost 40,000 subscribers, and regularly publishes his expert analyses on The Medical Futurist.

In the preview video below, Dr Meskó outlines how his session at the EIT Health Summit Series will discuss what we can definitely expect from AI in healthcare in the future – as well as touching on the things it definitely won’t do (such as replacing medical professionals and the empathy they provide to patients).

Transforming Healthcare With AI

EIT Health recently produced a joint report with McKinsey & Company on Transforming Healthcare with AI.

It aims to build on the existing literature and thinking on the potential of AI in healthcare, going a step further in helping define the impact of AI on healthcare practitioners, and the implications of introducing and scaling AI for healthcare organisations and healthcare systems, with a particular focus on Europe and EU Member States.

It does so by bringing together the McKinsey Global Institute’s (MGI) research programme on the future of work with new analyses on the future of work in healthcare, focused on Europe. This is complemented by 62 interviews of public- and private-sector decision makers and thought leaders across Europe, North America and Asia, and an in-depth survey of 175 healthcare professionals, health investors and AI start-up founders and other executives, conducted between December 2019 and January 2020.

The report aims to provide not only a comprehensive macro perspective on AI in healthcare, but also ground this view in the reality of the people tasked with making AI happen in healthcare delivery today, listening to their voices, hopes, frustrations and suggestions.

While recognising that it is still early days in terms of fully understanding the potential role of AI in healthcare, the report helps define the boundaries between aspiration, reality and hype, providing intriguing insights into how much of the AI in healthcare narrative is a reality and how healthcare professionals, start-up executives and investors prioritise and navigate the choppy waters of innovation, in Europe and beyond.

Dr John Halamka

John Halamka is a medical doctor who specialises in the adoption of electronic health records and the secure sharing of healthcare data for care coordination, population health and quality improvement. As president of the Mayo Clinic Platform, he leads a portfolio of platform businesses focused on transforming healthcare by leveraging artificial intelligence, connected health care devices and a network of trusted partners.

Having trained in emergency medicine and medical informatics, Dr Halamka has been developing and implementing healthcare information strategy and policy for more than 25 years. Prior to his appointment at Mayo Clinic, Dr Halamka was executive director of the Health Technology Exploration Center for Beth Israel Lahey Health in Massachusetts, where he oversaw digital health relationships with industry, academia and governments worldwide.

Dr Halamka has also helped the Bush and Obama administrations - and governments around the world - plan their healthcare information strategies. He has written a dozen books about technology-related issues, as well as hundreds of articles on the Geekdoctor blog.

In this Mayo Clinic video, Dr Halamka explains how platform initiatives are meeting patient needs and creating new care delivery possibilities.

Jorge Juan Fernández

As director of innovation at EIT Health, Jorge has a portfolio of more than 60 large-scale projects. He has 18 years of experience, with the last eight fully dedicated to innovation, technology and entrepreneurship at the intersection of business, government and academia. He regularly acts as an advisor and mentor to healthcare start-ups and entrepreneurial acceleration programmes.

Previously, Jorge worked within the innovation department at Hospital Sant Joan de Déu in Barcelona – a key example of a European healthcare provider using online care, telemedicine, mobile apps and health 2.0 tools to put the patient at the centre of care. He was also director of Moebio, a Stanford Biodesign programme where interdisciplinary teams experience a full cycle of innovation - from need identification through to designing and prototyping solutions or products and developing a business model.

In the below video, Jorge discusses how his role facilitates the acceleration of innovation, and how his session at the EIT Health Summit Series will help attendees understand the capabilities and possibilities - both current and future - for AI to transform healthcare.

Bertalan Meskó speaks to EURACTIV

In this EURACTIV article, Bertalan Meskó outlines his latest thinking on AI, the opportunities it presents, and the obstacles to implementation that we must overcome. He also discusses how AI could support medical decision-making in an unprecedented way.