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Health & Pharma

Phillips: Healthcare providers to increase AI investments following the pandemic

by Ben Wodecki
Article ImageEmerging markets especially keen to integrate AI into future care

AI is set to dominate the future of healthcare, with 74 percent of industry leaders planning to invest in the technology in the next three years, according to a survey by Royal Philips.

The Future Health Index 2021 report said that healthcare leaders in emerging economies like Saudi Arabia (98 percent), India (94 percent), and Russia (85 percent) plan to prioritize investments in AI the most.

Just 36 percent of healthcare leaders believe AI is a key area for investment today, the report stated, with healthcare organizations opting to concentrate on telehealth options instead.

“The Future Health Index 2021 report reflects pockets of positivity amid the COVID-19 crisis. Healthcare leaders have seen first-hand how digital health technology can ensure the continued delivery of care in incredibly difficult circumstances,” Jan Kimpen, Philips’ chief medical officer, said.

"Many are now reassessing their technology capabilities as they consider what's next. While we can't be sure what the next few years hold, what shines forth from this report is that healthcare leaders are committed to building healthcare systems that are sustainable, adaptable, and – above all – resilient."

Integration and prioritization

The report spoke with senior healthcare employees, including company executives, financial, and technology officers, among other roles.

The respondents told Phillips that their vision for post-pandemic healthcare would be patient-centered, enabled by smart technologies, as well as predictive tools.

Roughly one-third (36 percent) of respondents agreed that to be prepared for the future, their hospital or healthcare facility must prioritize investment in AI and machine learning.

Respondents from Singapore were a lot more open to embracing AI, with nearly two-thirds (62 percent) suggesting the need to prioritize investments in this set of technologies post-pandemic.

Three quarters (75 percent) of respondents said they felt confident about the future following a year of crisis brought on by the pandemic, with leaders stressing the need to form and maintain industry partnerships, and improve sustainability.

Philips itself has been using AI in healthcare, with the Philips Foundation, Dutch entrepreneurial development bank FMO, and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) deploying AI-based software to analyze chest X-rays of COVID-19 patients in South African hospitals.

The CAD4COVID software was deployed in a country ravaged by the virus, with some rural areas struggling from a lack of resources. The technology is based on the same technical core as Delft Imaging’s CAD4TB tuberculosis (TB) detection software, which has contributed to screening six million people for TB worldwide.

The Philips Foundation also donated AI and ML tools more widely in Africa, to countries including Uganda, to improve accessibility and re-usability of digital assets in order to identify and contain COVID-19 outbreaks.

Former Philips chief medical officer Roy Smythe said in a 2017 AI Business article that AI could potentially be used by medical teams to prevent diseases months or years before their onset through pattern recognition.

“We are only at the very beginning of applying AI in healthcare,” he said. “In an industry where patient safety is the top priority, we need to build clinical evidence and adjust our current ways of working. We have to all agree that reactive care is sometimes avoidable, and that proactive care is better than reactive. We only spend 3% of our healthcare dollars in the US on disease prevention.”

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