Are you familiar with AI and blockchain? As a stakeholder in healthcare, if you’re not you soon will be, according to Dr. Kala Fleming, an innovation leader at IBM.
Fleming, a research scientist, strategist, engineer and tech startup and hackathon advisor known for designing and implementing initiatives that drive adoption of next generation technologies, works on digital inclusion across the Caribbean, Africa and in underserved communities in the U.S. “I also work directly with entrepreneurs, advising on their startups, connecting them to resources or helping them apply emerging technologies like AI and blockchain,” she says.
Fleming is a featured speaker at the HEALinc Future Health Innovation Summit (www.healincfuturehealthsummit.com), which will be held on October 7-9 in Nassau, Bahamas.
AI can be thought of as a set of tools or algorithms that allow advanced pattern recognition of text, speech, images and tabular data, says Fleming. Recognition of patterns allow us to glean new insights that can enable a new set of end user services to be delivered. “AI can be used to assist in the management of chronic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes,” Fleming explains. “If blood pressure data is over time for several individuals, AI helps care providers improve strategies for blood pressure control and can help to identify reactions to drugs across clusters.”
AI blockchain, Fleming says, is a shared ledger that documents the passing of assets between two or more entities. The ledger is decentralized, immutable and automates many transactions. “This means that situations where tampering and fraud are a possibility, and where a lot of paper was previously involved to get a task done, might be good problem spaces for applying blockchain. Many different types of assets can be tracked on a blockchain – from food and medicine to a contract or digital currency,” she notes.
Two very popular IBM use cases for blockchain are shipping logistics simplification and tracing the source of a foodborne outbreak, says Fleming. In Jamaica, there is also a startup called Farm Credibly that is using blockchain to simplify how farmers gain access to credit. “The idea is that if all of their transactions with input suppliers and buyers are tracked over time via blockchain, then you can summarize and automatically share the pieces of information that help to determine a credit score with a bank,” says Fleming. “The farmer only needs to press a button.”
Dr. Desirée Cox, MD, PhD, Rhodes Scholar, medical doctor and founder and CEO of the HEALinc Future Health Innovation Summit, says that these developments will be discussed at this watershed meeting. “We’ll be talking about AI, blockchain, digital health, regenerative medicine, cellular therapy and precision health, and we will also be introducing participants to new approaches to designing, promoting and paying for future health innovations,” explains Cox.
AI and blockchain directly impact digital health. Fleming notes, “The rise of fitbits and digital blood pressure monitors provide just a taste of what is in store. Transformations that span genomics, personal and population health are underway.” IBM Research is working with partners to explore how digital health tools might be used to improve patient care, drug adherence and nudge adoption of heart-healthy behaviors. “In the Caribbean, similar efforts are possible,” she adds. “However, much of the work so far has focused on digitizing medical records as the first step for digital transformation of hospitals.”
Fleming explains what the future holds in this space. “Bottom up efforts, like running innovation marathons (hackathon) and establishing coding schools, provides students and entrepreneurs with an on-ramp to explore the opportunities that AI offers in healthcare. More top down support is needed from government and the private sector to help build out a systematic reward system that scales across each island to further incentivize our youth to shift their energy and potential towards digital innovation. At a minimum, the payoff is keeping pace with our new digital world. But healthier communities, greater connectedness and an improvement in quality of life are among the lofty outcomes that I have in mind.”
In addition to founding the Summit, Dr. Cox has more than 25 years of experience in healthcare and education. She has served in various industry-related roles, from medical doctor, healthcare consultant and social entrepreneur to university professor, delegate to the United Nations, guest lecturer at Oxford University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Rutgers and La Sorbonne Universities. Dr. Cox also spoke at the Fourth International Vatican Conference: Unite to Cure in April 2018.