Expert series: To realize AI’s promise in healthcare, we must have partnership, investment, and a focus on patient needs


Posted: September 23, 2020 | Word Count: 601

by David Pacitti

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already deeply embedded in our world. Its use is inevitable, and so often discussed, that many — including visionary business personalities like Elon Musk and Jack Ma — default to arguing over its positive or negative implications. Of course, the story requires more nuance, especially when thinking about the use of AI in healthcare.

I believe AI has the ability to positively transform how we care for patients. By enabling us to optimize efficiency, power new tools, and enhance collaboration, AI has opened up a world of possibilities in healthcare. These span from AI mental health chatbots such as the Woebot pioneered by Facebook and Stanford, to physician AI “companions” to help ease ever-increasing physician workloads. Different approaches to these companions have been pioneered by various companies, including my own, Siemens Healthineers.

Further innovating and fully realizing AI’s promise of healthcare transformation requires harnessing the massive amounts of data at the healthcare system level — a major, three-part undertaking that includes: 1) partnerships between industry and hospitals and health systems, 2) significant financial investments, and 3) a focus on patient needs.

These three elements must be linked together by dialogue between experts in the fields of medicine and technology. And only when these partners team up can true innovation occur.

To be sure, this is a shift in the way many companies — including mine — have delivered on the promise of AI for customers. For a long time, we focused on technical improvements, such as making an MRI faster or a CT scan more accurate, or helping improve a particular workflow within an organization. And while these are important efforts, they don’t address the larger need to change and streamline the entire system.

Having all three elements of the trifecta of investment, partnership, and human focus has the potential to yield exciting possibilities for how AI can help drive system-wide change.

This type of collaboration and human-focused approach has also played an important role in investigating AI’s capabilities in addressing new and emerging threats, like the COVID-19 pandemic. From multinational companies to small startups, the healthcare industry has stepped up by putting significant investments behind the use of AI in addressing this global crisis. Siemens Healthineers, too, has worked with our collaboration partners in France, New York, Switzerland, and Canada to develop a new algorithm for use in chest CT imaging to help healthcare professionals more quickly and easily identify pneumonia and measure disease severity in patients with suspected COVID-19 infections.

These are just a few examples of digital innovation resulting from shared investment and partnership with a focus on patient care.

The possibilities of what may come as a result of shared investment, partnership, and focus on patient care are exciting, whether it’s the next new innovation from big tech collaborating with academia or the societal impact we are hoping to see with our new 10-year digital health partnership with Geisinger, a nationally recognized healthcare system in Pennsylvania. This partnership, which is one of our largest in North America, is aimed at improving the patient experience for residents and driving digital health collaborations, including AI-enabled applications.

We are only beginning to truly realize the potential of AI and the power of collaboration in healthcare and beyond. And if we want AI in healthcare to indeed be inevitable, we must all have skin in the game.

David Pacitti is President of Siemens Medical Solutions USA, Inc. and Head of the Americas at Siemens Healthineers. For more information on the work Siemens Healthineers is doing in AI, visit: https://www.siemens-healthineers.com/en-us/digital-health-solutions/value-themes/artificial-intelligence-in-healthcare

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