Last week, AIMed reflected on the year and highlighted the many new ventures and collaborations between healthcare institutions, technology tycoons and startups, the ongoing debates around ethics, regulations and artificial intelligence (AI) deployments, as well as the up and coming influence from patients, young innovators, those without formal training in medicine or technology and so on. This week, AIMed is going to touch some of the technologies or topics around medicine and healthcare which one can looking forward to as we embark on a new decade.

Edge and Quantum Computing

Classical computers make use of electrical/optical pulses represented by 1 and 0; while quantum computers run on qubits or subatomic particles like electrons and photons. Many believe that since qubits embody many combinations of 1 and 0 at once, they tremendously cut down the amount of time classical computers need to solve classes of problems. AIMed had covered the ongoing quantum gold-rush, whereby there has been a growing number of technology firms raising money from private investors to tap onto the power of this new technology.

In medicine and healthcare, quantum computing is believed to accelerate progress specifically in the sequencing and analyses of genomics or omics data which thus facilitate personalized treatment options at a cost-effective manner. Likewise, quantum computing may also level the game of discovering new drugs by going through all molecules and combinations in incredulous speed. Virtual human being and complete simulations of all physiological and chemical processes may be made possible and unlocks the possibility of performing clinical trials outside of living subjects.

As quantum computing remains a relatively new domain and there is a general lack of expertise and hardware to support its related research, it may be a while before we can witness or enjoy its potential. At the moment, it seems to be a rival between Google and IBM, the former claimed to achieve “quantum supremacy” in October but the latter believe classical computers will share similar achievements when optimized appropriately. Likewise, other quantum startups thought the so-called “breakthrough” was more academic than realistic.

On the other hand, edge computing, which gets a job done near or at the source of the data, rather than depending on massive data centers or cloud space could potentially assist care providers to support remotely located patients. More powerful devices can also be deployed to increase the amount of information collected and render real-time analyses and feedback. Rumor of Amazon designing its own AI chip for Alexa has run more than a year. With edge computing, virtual assistant can now take up more responsibilities at a faster and cheaper rate. AIMed believe in the coming year, many can anticipate these two forms of computing to exercise a wider influence in the industry.

5th Generation Wireless Network

5G enables a quicker transmission of data, which not only enhances mobile communication but the way smart devices are connected to the internet. Primarily, 5G wireless network bears the potential to support and expand telemedicine as clinicians are able to provide remote consultation via high quality and non-disruptive connections. Its low latency nature also means a more precise and non-delay decision making process can take place at a lower cost.

Much discussions took place in this year’s GITEX (Gulf Information Technology Exhibition), the biggest tech show in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, as representatives from different communication providers such as Huawei, Ericsson, Etisalat International and du explored the gradual process of rolling 5G services and how interconnection empowers businesses and achieves sustainability in the long run.

In the UK, the multinational telecommunication company – BT had partnered with University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust to demonstrate how a 5G connected ambulance could possibly change emergency services of the future. Over here, clinicians situated in the hospitals can see exactly what the paramedic is seeing inside the ambulance via a virtual reality like headset. They are also able to give real-time instructions to paramedic to perform necessary assessments, scans, diagnoses, or get a close-up insight with the help of a joystick. In the coming year, AIMed wishes to report more of application and adoption of 5G wireless network.

Who should govern or pay for AI?

Debates around AI ethics and data privacy may continue in the next year or even in the new decade as technology evolves and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other prominent units refine and update their regulations, especially towards algorithms which can be fed and re-train with new data over time. This debate may be brought to a whole new level as medical institutions decide who (i.e., technology company, developer, hospital, medical professional) should be responsible shall an algorithm perform below expectations and resulted in casualties.

Likewise, who (i.e., government, healthcare institution, insurance company, patients) should be paying for an algorithm when it’s deployed officially and successfully. Will it be that only some cities or states, where people can afford to pay for the solution, enjoy the result of it while others are being left behind? If so, this may aggravate existing health inequalities experience in certain communities or remote areas. Ultimately, can this lead to an algorithm that grows with incoming data, be trained to serve the communities who can afford it better than those who can’t. AIMed feels that while ethics and privacy remain crucial, it’s myopic to keep dwelling on them as one should look out for an even longer term impact that AI could possibly bring to human being and the way we execute healthcare.


Author Bio

Hazel Tang A science writer with data background and an interest in the current affair, culture, and arts; a no-med from an (almost) all-med family. Follow on Twitter.