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Personalized Medicine might be the true ticket for AI’s march on Healthcare

I came across this interesting piece on siliconANGLE  focused on how big data is coming to cardiovascular medicine, via a precision medicine initiative. I found the read to be fascinating, and I recommend you read the article, provided in the references section below.

In summary, the American Heart Association (AHA) is collaborating with Amazon Web Services to build a data analytics platform. Details are thin, so I am unsure of how much is hype and how much is reality. I assume, as time progresses, it will indeed turn out to be very useful. The article describes the platform as a “marketplace” (yes, concerning, in more ways than one) for various forms of patient data:

  1. Personal Data
  2. Clinical Trial Data
  3. Pharmaceutical Data
  4. Hospital Data, and apparently, other data.

The goal here is to use this to personalize treatments for patients. Read more in the article. I believe that personalized medicine and AI share a deep connection. I want to share some of my own thoughts of how such efforts could give way to lasting influence by AI on healthcare:

  1. Personalized medicine needs knowledge, which comes through data. Similarly, learning requires data. Data helps you glean patterns, which is what learning is. Thus, AI and Personalized medicine are the two snakes of Caduceus, which in this case is the data itself. Thus, efforts to bring about personalized medicine should be expanded vastly.
  2. Knowledge is supreme. When it comes to personalized medicine and such, you hear all this hype of n=1. Unfortunately, for medicine to be effective, first you need large quantities of data, and with that the ability to glean actionable information from the data, to understand diseases, treatments, and their effectiveness. Whether you see this on a gross scale, or all the way down to a Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP), this type of knowledge needs to be the horse in front of the cart. Without actionability, the patterns recognized through the data might not be useful. This knowledge doesn’t exist, so the hype cycle might cause enough damage and reduce funding levels later on. Realistic expectations ought to be set so that this doesn’t happen.
  3. There are two problems with healthcare data that come to the fore. First, we don’t really know that is being collected is appropriate. There is a lot of day dreaming about genetic data, racial data, physiological parameters (one company claims to be measuring 300 parameters!)  and other measurands and the hope that these will somehow magically transform themselves into diagnoses and treatments. With enough research, they will, but this will take expensive effort and time. Low hanging fruits such as breast cancer diagnoses, etc., are pushing people to imagine that the same level of rapid success will be seen throughout the healthcare continuum. There is no way to know if this will be the case.
  4. The second problem with healthcare data is about ownership and walls around the data. For example, will AHA share the data with the general public? If not, why not? Terms like “marketplace” give me pause. They might very well be just terms used to explain things colloquially. On the other hand, it is important to think about the issue of data sitting behind paywalls, or blocked of with HIPAA as a convenient excuse (more posts to come on all this). Data Democracy is a critical need for the progress of medicine and for Artificial Intelligence, eventually.
  5. What if the data is not free? What about the insights? Do we suddenly now start paying for the insights? Or, would CMS start reimbursing Doctors for personalized medicine? For the use of AI tools? There are several questions here, and only time will answer them.


Data will give us clinical insights. These insights will eventually fragment into meaningful personalized healthcare. The same data will lead to even more advances with AI. However, unanswered questions over data ownership and access remain.



  1. https://siliconangle.com/blog/2018/01/22/can-precision-medicine-break-chokehold-on-healthcare-big-data-reinvent-womenintech/
  2. Image, Courtesy Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/interior-of-office-building-325229/


Machine Learning shows promise in Dementia prediction

Rubik's Cube

I was flipping through some archives, and found this Scope (a Stanford University, School of Medicine Publication) article that delineates a machine learning tool (link below, Scope calls it AI, the authors of the tool, in their paper, also linked below, rightfully categorize it as ML, a subset of AI as we generally describe it). I always love when you have access to the paper linked to a study. It always makes things easy.

So, the folks at McGill, trained an ML system using PET scans from people who demonstrate symptoms of mild cognitive impairment, to see who among them would develop Alzheimer’s, given that not all of them do. They taught the system to focus on the elevated protein expression in specific brain regions to train and make predictions.

Used on an independent set, the tool had an 84% prediction accuracy of dementia progression. Read more in the paper. I want to share a few thoughts below.

  1. I think tools like this will become the norm over time. However, right now, they lack the kind of standardization and maturity required for integration into clinical practice. I don’t mean to state that in a negative sense. Such efforts take time, effort and funding, of course.
  2. An 84% percent efficiency is not enough, not even for a supporting tool, not even when humans are completely in charge. This is also achieved through training with large data sets, the use of better algorithms and other improvement methodologies. This could also use some standardization, that can then be spread to all ML, DL and AI tools, which use imaging for diagnostics in healthcare.
  3. The future should consist of such tools passively (and when necessary, actively) siphoning your imaging and other data off your EHRs, and then parsing them to see if predictions can be made. This however, requires more groups such as the ADNI (Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative), from whose participants the imaging and other data was used, collaborations from hospitals, insurance companies and governments.
  4. To improve diagnosis across ages, sexes, races and other discriminating factors, global co-operation would be required.
  5. Of course, we need to take various types of data, ranging from imaging to genetics, to epigenetics and other sources to make diagnosis quite efficient. Perhaps, this combination is one way to get around the 84% efficiency in this tool, till a time comes when imaging alone produces better results. At that point, say you make predictions based on imaging, genetics, lifestyle and other factors, and they all chime in. You can probably use whatever interventions are available (this is a key factor, missing in all the hype about machine learning. You learn something, yes, but what do you DO?) to delay, treat and cure patients.

When I find more such interesting studies, I will share similar and other thoughts on Machine Learning, Deep Learning and AI, and their impact on Healthcare.

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  1. The Stanford SCOPE Article: http://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2017/08/29/artificial-intelligence-can-help-predict-who-will-develop-dementia-a-new-study-finds/?imm_mid=0f5d75&cmp=em-data-na-na-newsltr_ai_20170904
  2. The McGill Paper: http://www.neurobiologyofaging.org/article/S0197-4580(17)30229-4/fulltext
  3. Image courtesy, Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/brain-color-colorful-cube-19677/

Slides – How Artificial Intelligence is Changing Medical Devices

The main goal of this site is to air my thoughts on how new technologies and paradigms impact the practice of medicine. In relation to this, I made a presentation, just yesterday, December 6, 2017, on the topic of Artificial Intelligence, and the growing influence of this discipline on the field of medical devices.

The slides will be available to download this through the site.

I do have to caution you. I do not present a lot of text in the slides. I have written some notes on the slides, but together, they still will not be enough to understand all of what I spoke about.

However, do not worry. I will blog about each slide, concept and use-case presented on this presentation over the next few weeks and months. Subscribe for updates and stay tuned! In addition, if you feel you have a set of burning questions and need them answered as soon as possible, do feel free to contact me and I will answer them as early as possible.

The download link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/12o1DHzJ2f_jNJi8MzZFPqhOwydVoDU52/view?usp=sharing