AI – Artificial Intelligence – sounds like another buzzword floating in the air of Brussels when we talk about future R&D priorities. There are many interpretations of what AI means, while some people are already grumbling that it’s just another fad.
Personally, I believe that now is the time for practical examples of deployment of AI in medical practice. No more buzzwords, let’s get real!
The European Commission is releasing three calls in its ICT Programme and Health Programme for 2019-2020. These topics call for collaborative projects, either fundamental or applied, classified in EC jargon as Research & Innovation Actions or Innovation Actions, respectively. In total, more than 100 M€ is being invested in AI for healthcare topics by the European Commission.
The calls address:
- AI for Health Imaging (DT-TDS-05-2020, 13 Nov 2019, €35 million)
- AI for the smart hospital of the future (DT-ICT-12-2020, 20 April 2020, €40 million)
- AI for Genomics and Personalised Medicine (DT-TDS-04-2020, 20 April 2020, €35 million)
I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the preparation of a proposal on AI for the smart hospital of the future. In order to strictly meet the requirements of the calls and the expected impacts – we all know that impact can make or break a proposal – we have assembled a very diverse group of partners comprising medtech companies, hospitals, health economists and, of course, AI companies.
Finding a suitable AI partner was not so easy. I must confess that identifying a European Company with proven experience in AI in healthcare has been challenging because the field is so young. It also raises the question of European sovereignty in AI, especially in healthcare. Of course, inviting one of the big four tech companies – Google, Apple Facebook and Amazon (GAFAM) – would have been the first option for many, but not for us.
Further to an analysis of all previous EU-funded projects with the keywords ‘AI’ and ‘healthcare’, I realised that the topic has not been addressed so far in such a broad manner as is now requested in 2019-2020. The expectations about the demonstration of added value brought by AI and its impacts on patients, healthcare systems, hospitals, healthcare professionals are much higher.
When starting to write our proposal, I realised how some well-known and frequently heard topics like cybersecurity, quality of data, reliability of data, access to personal data, interoperability of systems and data, and privacy suddenly become real challenges when it comes to implementation. How can we train algorithms on data stored by hospitals? How can we develop open platforms while preserving IPR and ownership? These are some of the questions raised during our consortium meetings.
The very good news is that in three or four years after the launch of the projects (so, around 2024) Europe will have its first collection of (let’s hope) successful use cases to demonstrate how AI brings significant additional features to healthcare delivery in terms of efficiency, cost reduction, and quality.
Let’s hope that under Horizon Europe, this effort will continue to build a strong EU industry in AI and make practical services available to healthcare professionals and healthcare systems.
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