AI implementation to improve Latin American Health

Global medical practice is being transformed by artificial intelligence. According to recent studies, it is estimated that the percentages allocated to investment in health AI will approach USD 36 billion by 2025, which represents an increase of 50% compared to 2018. If AI is merged with telemedicine, It could expand the inclusion of a larger population in the public health system, playing a very important role.

Health care is a public service that many people around the world do not have access to. A report published in 2017 by the WHO and the World Bank ensures that half of the world’s population does not have access to health care, while chronic diseases and the percentages of aging in the population are increasing. According to the latest WHO data, 75% of deaths in the region are attributable to chronic diseases, an increase of nearly 20 percentage points from 1990 data.

These events cause an increase of health care´s costs, therefore, impacting the patients’ budget. In Latam there are only 6 countries that have a health system which covers 20% of the family spends, this figure protects vulnerable populations against poverty or large health expenditures that could have a large economic impact.

The precarious health care has the possibility of being reduced exponentially by optimizing administrative processes in terms of detection, prevention, immunization and systems to schedule medical appointments.

Health system: What improvements would Artificial Intelligence bring?

Artificial intelligence not only automates processes but also allows better planning, better diagnosis and prognosis for patients, making health care efficient, significantly reducing costs and optimizing time. It allows remote analysis results, which brings a better way of structuring the services provided by medical care.

Virtual contact between patients and healthcare providers is enabled by the telemedicine trend, offering an alternative to expensive healthcare settings and opening up alternatives for people who must travel long distances to reach a healthcare facility. Among the virtues offered by AI is the reduction of the burden on clinical staff, allowing them to provide better attention to patient care.

Uruguay presents advances in telemedicine more than a decade ago, where the AGESIC (Electronic Government and Information and Knowledge Society Agency) promotes the development of electronic medical records of patients, which are interoperable between all health institutions at throughout the country.

How to achieve successful development?

An adequate infrastructure is vital for the success of digitalization in healthcare using AI and telemedicine, initial investments are necessary to be established in conjunction with specialist partners that will ensure that the entire network of systems is compatible with each other, that will facilitate training and implementation.

The implementation of telemedicine and AI will only be successful if regulations are created and allow the use of an optimal model that encompasses the coverage of this modality, while having the specific licenses and medical responsibility.

Two key aspects that must be unified are more accessible prices for patients and the financial incentive that the medical provider must have to implement AI and telemedicine in their services.

Training for the use of AI in telemedicine

The basis for the implementation of telemedicine and AI is education for both parties: the health personnel and patients. It is recommended that all medical personnel involved are trained in the use of tools, AI software and electronic communication with patients. On the other hand, patients must learn to become familiar with this new modality, overcoming generational and cultural barriers to obtain the most efficient result of this new tool.

Finally, the risk that exists when handling health data digitally should be a priority for governments, include standards to improve the use of platforms and include regulations for minimizing possible risks, thus promoting data transparency to avoid discriminatory biases when using the algorithms provided by AI.

Due to the recent global pandemic of Covid-19, AI and telemedicine will provide an important role in healthcare, as it has accelerated the implementation of telemedicine, which is expected to have exponential growth in the coming years.

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