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  • Writer's pictureNancy Nemes

Climate Change, Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Healthcare

By guest author: Alexandru (Alec) Balasescu, Ph.D., Ms. AI Expert Anthropology

Climate Change and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are the two main disrupting factors in today’s global economy, despite the fact that the first ‘benefits’ from armies of negationists, while the second oscillates between narratives of salvation and machine apocalypse.

Healthcare will be impacted in different but contiguous ways by these two factors. In order to better prepare for the changes that the future may bring, we need a closest to complete understanding of the combined effects of AI and Climate Change on population health.

In respect to climate change, the major challenges for population health could be subsumed in the following categories:

1. Diseases associated with air and water pollution. Chronic diseases, heart condition, etc.

2. Mental Health issues.

3. New or old infectious bacteria and viruses possibly revived by the destruction of permafrost. This includes pests and invasive species that may be factors of infection spreading.

4. Food security that may lead to chronic diseases or conditions.

5. Extreme temperatures and other emergency situations that put a sudden strain on the healthcare system.

Artificial Intelligence as applied to Healthcare is projected to have an increased impact in:

1. Diagnosis (all forms of diagnosis, from medical imaging to infectious diseases)

2. Medication and care planning

At the same time, and adjacent to this, changes are expected to happen in the domain of:

1. Telehealth and Patient transport – i.e. will driverless emergency responses become the norm in the future? With what effects?

2. Emergency responses and early identification of emergencies (i.e. through intelligent networks within the smart cities/ internet of things)

3. Smart implants

Thus, the question is not “will AI replace humans in healthcare?” (I would argue that this is a wrongly directed question) but rather “How will we integrate AI and collaborate with it in order to create an effective response to the challenges of the future?” A subsequent question is “what are the possible socio-cultural hold backs in this process?”

While concentrating on governance, we need to identify the factors that seem today ‘marginal’ and understand how they will reshape our culture of providing care, from policies that adapt to the integration of AI in healthcare to professional practices that may emerge as a result of the interaction with AI, while speculating on the level of preparation needed for an optimal response to the socio-cultural and economic changes triggered by AI and Climate Change. More on these in future postings.

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