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Health Tech | Revolutionising population health planning with artificial intelligence

Published:Sunday | February 25, 2024 | 12:06 AM
Wearable devices and smart sensors can continuously collect data, providing valuable insights into changes in health status
Wearable devices and smart sensors can continuously collect data, providing valuable insights into changes in health status
Doug Halsall
Doug Halsall
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Artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a key component of the healthcare industry, relevant to all aspects of care, from diagnosis to monitoring. AI has become a transformative force that has assisted health care managers and governments to define ways in which they can positively transform health care, especially with respect to population planning and disease forecasting.

As societies grapple with complex health challenges, from the rise of chronic diseases to various global pandemics, leveraging the capabilities of AI can be a game-changer in creating more effective and responsive strategies for the well-being of entire communities.

One of the primary strengths of AI in population health planning lies in its ability to analyse vast amounts of data and identify patterns that might go unnoticed by traditional methods.

Predictive analytics, a branch of AI, allows healthcare professionals to forecast health trends and risks within specific populations. By examining historical health data, socioeconomic factors, and environmental influences, AI algorithms can generate insights that help in anticipating health needs.

For instance, AI can predict the potential outbreak of diseases, enabling healthcare systems to allocate resources efficiently and implement preventive measures. By identifying at-risk populations based on various factors, healthcare managers can tailor interventions to specific demographics, thus optimising the impact of healthcare initiatives.

In a 2019 study that appeared in the Sage Journal and titled ‘A Population Health Perspective on AI’, the authors, Levigne, et al, concluded that applications of AI have the potential to assist clinicians, health system managers, public health practitioners, and policy-makers in making more precise, and potentially more effective decisions (journals.sagepub.com).

The study also highlighted the fact that there are several facets of AI that can contribute positively to healthcare development in a holistic way. AI’s capability to process and analyse individual health data, for example, can contribute to the development of personalised interventions within the broader framework of population health planning.

By considering elements such as genetic predispositions, lifestyle choices, and other personalised factors, AI can assist in tailoring healthcare strategies to meet the unique needs of individuals within a population.

This personalised approach not only enhances the effectiveness of health interventions but also promotes a more patient-centric model of care. For example, AI-powered algorithms can assist healthcare providers in recommending personalised lifestyle changes, treatment plans, and preventive measures, thereby fostering a proactive approach to healthcare that goes beyond generic recommendations.

Scarce resources with the healthcare landscape are always a concern, especially as populations continue to grow, with a preponderance of diseases such as NCDs. Efficient allocation of resources is therefore critical. AI can play a pivotal role in optimising resource distribution by analysing data to identify areas with the greatest need and potential impact.

For instance, predictive modeling can help forecast the demand for healthcare services in specific regions, allowing authorities to allocate resources such as healthcare professionals, medical supplies, and facilities accordingly. This not only enhances the overall efficiency of healthcare systems but also contributes to cost savings by preventing the misallocation of resources.

HELP TO COLLECT DATA

AI can also help to collect data so that health managers can continually update strategies and reallocate resources where they matter most. AI-powered monitoring systems, for example, can enable real-time tracking of health metrics on both individual and population levels.

Wearable devices and smart sensors can continuously collect data, providing valuable insights into changes in health status. This kind of monitoring allows for early detection of potential health issues, facilitating timely interventions.

For instance, AI can analyse data from wearable devices to detect irregularities in heart rate, sleep patterns, or activity levels. By identifying deviations from normal patterns, healthcare providers can intervene early, preventing the progression of certain conditions and reducing the overall burden on the healthcare system.

The integration of AI into population health planning represents a significant leap forward in our ability to create more effective, personalised, and efficient healthcare strategies. If we harness the power of AI to analyse data, predict health trends, and optimise resource allocation, we can move closer to a future where healthcare is not only more responsive to the needs of communities but also more capable of preventing and managing health challenges on a population-wide scale.

Doug Halsall is the chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems. Email feedback to doug.halsall@gmail.com and editorial@gleanerjm.com