The Lancet @200 years & HIFA: Spotlight webinar on medical research as a catalyst for policy and societal change, Nov 9 at 13:30 GMT (4) Artificial intelligence

10 November, 2023

Dear HIFA colleagues,

Thank you to all HIFA members who were able to join our Lancet-HIFA webinar yesterday. More than 1400 people registered. The webinar was recorded and will soon be freely available.

There was a question from one of the participants about artificial intelligence. I gave an optimistic response, saying that AI has the potential to dramatically improve the availability and use of reliable healthcare information in the next 5-10 years, although of course there are also major concerns about AI more generally: for example Elon Musk sees it as a global existential threat.

I was interested to read a similarly optimistic view this morning in an article by Bill Gates: 'AI is about to completely change how you use computers'

He writes:

"Today, AI’s main role in healthcare is to help with administrative tasks. Abridge, Nuance DAX, and Nabla Copilot, for example, can capture audio during an appointment and then write up notes for the doctor to review.

"The real shift will come when agents can help patients do basic triage, get advice about how to deal with health problems, and decide whether they need to seek treatment. These agents will also help healthcare workers make decisions and be more productive. (Already, apps like Glass Health can analyze a patient summary and suggest diagnoses for the doctor to consider.) Helping patients and healthcare workers will be especially beneficial for people in poor countries, where many never get to see a doctor at all.

"These clinician-agents will be slower than others to roll out because getting things right is a matter of life and death. People will need to see evidence that health agents are beneficial overall, even though they won’t be perfect and will make mistakes. Of course, humans make mistakes too, and having no access to medical care is also a problem."

I agree. What do you think?

Best wishes, Neil

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of HIFA (Healthcare Information For All), a global health community that brings all stakeholders together around the shared goal of universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA has 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting in four languages and representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based nonprofit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Email: