Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly applied in healthcare and proving to be a life-changing – or even a life-saving ! – technological development. After the successful Erasmus-Descartes conference organized by the Dutch Embassy in Paris last November, discussions on this important topic continued during the Seminar AI & Health on 21 May 2019.
Minister Bruno Bruins from the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports opened the seminar by sharing his view on the importance of AI. Making healthcare future-proof in an aging society with rising healthcare expenditures and labour shortages, that is the challenge both France and the Netherlands face. AI offers valuable solutions: it can save lives by predicting the chance of a re-admission to Intensive Care, detect early stages of cancer with medical imaging, or has the potential to offer time-saving technologies to technical, administrative and medical staff. But how do we scale-up the solutions? What is Minister Bruins’ strategy?
“My call to you is to exchange information, to exchange lessons learned. And work together for a transformation in healthcare that serves our societies, our citizens, our patients.”
– Minister Bruno Bruins, Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports
And so the speakers did. Starting off by a round of pitches, French and Dutch companies shared their solutions to develop and use AI in health. Damien Gromier from AI for Good / AI for Health organizes large conferences in France to bring together the whole AI ecosystem and induce more collaboration. Olga Liska from the Dutch company TOPIC explained how they use AI to improve end-time predictions of surgeries and thereby create a more efficient hospital system. Carla Rombouts from the research institute TNO elaborated on her research on prevention and health, with the important motto: stay healthy and in control of your data!
The main course of the seminar was the panel discussion, led by our moderator Dr. Stephan Raaijmakers, Senior Scientist at TNO, who you might recognize – he also moderated the discussions during our previous AI conference! The other familiar faces were Barend Mons from GO-FAIR and Nicolas Villain from Philips France, joined by the new experts Cecile Théard-Jallu from De Gaulle Fleurance & Associés, Carla Rombouts from TNO and Holger Hoos from the EU initiative CLAIRE.
The first of three topics discussed was the scientific aspect of AI in healthcare. Being experts in this field, Barend Mons and Holger Hoos started off the discussion on the thesis: The transformational impact of AI on healthcare (and medicine) will be more profound than that of microscopy. The origins of microscopy lay in the Netherlands and nowadays a lot of new research on AI is coming from the same place, as Holger Hoos explained. New applications are rapidly developed and their impact is changing healthcare as we know it. However, Barend Mons provided a critical note in saying that the current promises of AI often still remain that, promises. More work needs to be done to develop machine learning and image recognition technology in a FAIR way. The importance of having FAIR data (which stands for: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) was underlined by the panel and Minister Bruins emphasized that the Dutch government also supports the FAIR initiative.
Secondly, Cecile Théard-Jallu enlightened us with her expert view as an attorney at law on the thesis: The current legal system hinders the development of AI in healthcare. She explained how in France and on an EU-level, the legal system actually is designed to evolve so that AI in healthcare can be developed without restraints, but also minimizing risks of data use and privacy issues. Continuous updates are necessary, as AI is constantly changing and learning more with every data input. Intellectual property rights, laws on data collection and use, insurances and certification of technologies were discussed by the panel. However, not everyone agrees the current legal system is adapt to the change AI will bring about, worrying about the risks it can pose in the future. But as Cecile Théard-Jallu stressed: a strong debate is necessary to ensure that the ethics of AI put the interest of the human being at the heart of it and embed it in our legal systems.
Lastly, experts on the business side of the discussion, Nicolas Villain and Carla Rombouts, debated the thesis: Monetizing health data should not be done. If not profitable, how can businesses use AI? If it’s too profitable, will AI be only something the rich will have access to? This tight balance was discussed. Instead of data sharing, data visiting would ensure more security in the system. Nicolas Villain explained that instead of selling data, companies can add value by providing innovative services by transforming the raw material (data) into an AI solution! Carla Rombouts agreed and presented how TNO is adding value. The problem is that many digital interventions are still not personalized enough. Data science can be the game changer in that, it can shift the current focus, on the treatment of illnesses, towards the maintenance of good health.
This seminar proved once more that the Netherlands and France share the same conviction: that AI in healthcare creates huge opportunities for better health prevention and health care for everyone. But also that we should continue the debate, in order to minimize risks involved and to ensure a sound ethical framework.
A special thanks goes out to CCI Paris Ile-de-France, part of the European Commission’s ‘Enterprise Europe Network’, for co-organising this seminar with us. And to our speakers and participants! More than 100 French and Dutch participants enjoyed this seminar and the opportunity to connect with each other. Did you unfortunately miss it? Keep an eye on our blog and Twitter, where we announce upcoming events!