Artificial intelligence has great potential to improve the lives of so many people, especially in the health sector. In Holland, for example, the Amsterdam Medical Center uses computer vision to process patient data, and particularly images. With SAS’ help, it is moving closer to a position where it can deliver preventive cancer care, rather than intervention. It is very much a feel-good story, but why do stories such as this resonate so much? For me, there are three reasons.
First: Everyone can relate to improvements in health
We have pretty much all been ill at some point in our lives and needed medical care and attention – and if you haven’t, you will almost certainly know someone who has. Many of us have been touched by diseases such as cancer, either directly or through close family and friends. We understand what these diseases mean – and we also understand the importance of advances in their detection, prevention and treatment.
Second: Health care is the perfect field for AI
Health care is perfect for AI. It has lots of data and limited medical resources, and marginal gains can make a big difference in saving lives. Digital health care is moving front and centre in the NHS because it offers the opportunity to both improve care and save money. For example, it is now possible to predict stent failure using machine learning, and therefore reduce the risk of heart attacks: better care, and also lower costs. AI is not just important for individual patients, either. Using data well will help to make sure that the World Health Organisation can achieve its goals on a global scale.
Third: For many of us, it’s personal
I said before that we all understand the importance of improving the treatment of diseases. But for many of us, the connection goes deeper – it’s personal.
I don’t want to bore you with my life history, but back in 2009-2010, I underwent a series of tests and procedures for a nagging problem. Although we didn’t know it at the time, I was in the early stages of a rare form of cancer. In August 2011, my daughter was born via an emergency cesarean section – an event which ultimately saved my life because unusual cells were spotted by the fabulous theatre staff, biopsies were taken, and a diagnosis made. The following summer, I underwent a mammoth 11-hour operation. For me, the outcome was a good one. For others, the AI advances are not coming quickly enough. In the seven years since my (successful) surgery, I have had no recurrence of cancer. But I have lost close family and friends to this terrible disease, as have so many others.
Support, social media and stories
Like many other people looking for information and support on a particular condition, I joined a social media forum sharing experiences and asking questions on my particular form of cancer. While browsing, I found a post with a link to a study on how advanced analytics – SAS technology, in fact – had been used to improve understanding. That felt, if anything, even more personal!UK's NHS Blood & Transplant won the SAS Data4Good Award recently. Why? They manage transplants by analyzing thousands of tons of data. Click To Tweet
Coming back to the beginning of my post, I must admit that I am from the UK and not from Holland, even though I admire each and every step a clinic undertakes to strengthen our health – in whatever country. Thus I want to showcase a special project from my home: NHS Blood & Transplant. They won the SAS Data4Good Award recently. Why? In the UK, over 7,000 patients are on waiting lists for transplants, and around 3,000 transplants are performed each year.
NHS Blood & Transplant is using data and advanced analytics to help bridge the gap to meet the donor shortage. This work attracts significantly less media attention than new cancer treatments and other applications of AI, but it, too, is saving lives. It is a reminder that incremental advances, and good use of data and technology, matter as much as the big leaps forward, especially in health care. For all of us, this is personal.
To understand more around how SAS works in health care, visit our resource centre.