AI, virtual human assistants and human-like AI are set to revolutionise healthcare. One of their core strengths is the ability to personalise treatment of patients. However, the question becomes, how can we integrate the new technologies without risking losing the human touch in healthcare?
You hesitate– “Can we personalise treatments”? Torn between alleviating your child’s condition and risking the chance of aggravating the pain, you have no choice but to give your child the medication, knowing full well that it might lead to the development of adverse drug reactions.
This is the reality for many parents who have had to give their children carbamazepine, which is a medication often prescribed to treat pediatric epilepsy and other neurological conditions such as nerve pain. Despite the promise of a better quality of life, this drug has an equal potential to cause severe adverse drug reactions such as blister and rash formation throughout the body, as well as inflammation of the liver.
Yet, this need not be the case forever.
With the world of technology and healthcare becoming increasingly interconnected, the skills and knowledge of doctors can transcend the normal capabilities of the human mind. We can now personalise treatment with the help of artificial intelligence.
Artificial Intelligence is the key factor in this equation and is paramount in driving the development of new medical technology. Singapore, being a technological hub, has caught up with recent advancements and begun to implement them in our healthcare facilities.
One such example would be personalised medication, otherwise known as precision medicine, in which gene patterns are screened and analysed before prescribing the most compatible and effective medication.
At KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital and Singapore General Hospital, doctors have been leveraging on artificial intelligence systems and prescribing personalised medication. Patients such as children with epilepsy are screened for their gene patterns, which are then analysed via artificial intelligence systems to deduce if these children will develop severe adverse reactions to the drug carbamazepine.
Such tests cost around $50 with subsidies and $200 without any subsidies. If the tests come back positive, doctors would not prescribe carbamazepine and would switch to another alternative, so as to treat the children without causing painful side effects. As such, the result would be a child that is alleviated from the pain caused by epilepsy without the fear of having to deal with more problems from side effects.
Such technology is momentous as it calls upon an era of better medication prescription and more effective healthcare services. In fact, healthcare bioanalytics firm Invitrocue and A*Star’s Genome Institute of Singapore have collaborated and set up a new research firm in Biopolis that aims to focus on personalised medication for cancer treatment. Patients with different gene patterns respond differently to various medications, and it is in the doctor’s interest to be able to prescribe the most effective treatment for the patients. With such technology, medical treatments can be customised to suit the patient’s genetic makeup, as potential side effects can be flagged during the analysis and avoided. The possibilities for the healthcare industry are endless, and the future of disease treatment seems hopeful.
How can we then further such developments and improve their prevalence in Singapore? The answer might very well lie in Artificial Intelligence, and especially human-like artificial intelligence. Human-like artificial intelligence, especially the Virtual Human Agent (VHA) can potentially put a body and personality to the voice that we often hear on smart technologies such as Siri and Alexa. The potential uses of VHA are flexible and can be applied in various industries such as the healthcare industry as mentioned previously or even in the customer service industry. Depending on how the VHA’s are fine-tuned, their functions can be widely diversified and used in many aspects of our daily lives.
Nonetheless, such tight integration of technology into our lives undeniably calls for the question of privacy and reliability. How far can we trust and rely on the information or services provided? How much control over our lives are we willing to surrender to these robots? As technology begins to become more intertwined in our lives, these questions would be raised and actively discussed. It is then important to remember that technology is, unfortunately. a double-edged sword and while it can bring much convenience and quality to our lives, it has the equal potential to hurt us as well.
The future of technology then rests upon our integrity, and it is integral that those with the right motivations to better human life have control over it.