Recently, a global community from the intersection of Data Science, AI, and Medicine came together at the Intelligent Health AI Summit 2023 in Basel.
Hosted by InspiredMinds!, the annual conference-like event is the place to be for an international community of healthcare practitioners, data scientists, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders seeking to push the frontier of AI and its application in medicine, both public and private. As someone with literally zero background in medicine or medical-engineering… I. Was. Fascinated.
Registration opened early, and I had a chance to watch the ambience of the event build from the beginning. Before the opening of the event, two large screens, each aside the main stage, played a short film on repeat. Cyberpunk in style, the film showcased scenes reminiscent of the Neo-Seoul found in Cloud Atlas: footage with an undertone of a dystopian future in which giant holograms of dancers pass through low-lit streets littered with robots and humans alike, accentuated by the neon lights of vendors.
Accompanied by ominous music and a low-lit conference room, I couldn’t help but feel like the setting in some way was an intentional reflection of our global positioning as we sit now on the other side of a technological frontier: generative AI is here, and this is only the beginning. The uncertainty of our future was palpable in the air.
Ten minutes before the opening, and a friendly AI voice punctuated the air to remind the audience of the schedule for the day. Kicking off the event with an epic introduction video, Sarah Porter, founder & CEO of InspiredMinds!, opened the summit on both days with a strong reminder of the sense of community that the event has fostered, something that other speakers referenced too. With ample networking opportunities in the program, the Intelligent Health Summit certainly seems like an entry point into this community.
I was particularly impressed by one of the first keynote speakers, Mona Flores, Global Head of Medical AI at NVIDIA. With a background as a heart surgeon, Flores offered an incredibly balanced perspective in her headline talk on the emerging use cases of AI technologies in healthcare. Flores underscored the potential of this technology in the development of new medications and understanding their effects on the human body, as well as the potential of synthetic data as a solution in such a sensitive-data domain. Astute, but ever a surgeon at heart, she left the audience with pearls of wisdom, one of my favorite being “AI is like a knife, it is sharp but it is not the enemy”.
A second headline speaker, exemplary of this community, was Professor Shafi Ahmed. His headliner talk explored the practical applications of AI in the surgery room: from surgical navigation and extended reality to robots and 5G remote autonomous surgery. A true futurist at heart, Professor Shafi also has his very own medical facility in the Metaverse, where he consults patients. Listening to and witnessing footage of the innovation in the medical domain was truly eye-opening to the possibilities of the future of medicine.
Alongside the excellent speakers, the event had a strong series of panel discussions with respected thought leaders from around the world, developed in various fields of medicine or data science. A datanaught at heart, I was most impressed by the panel discussion on Examining the latest regulatory challenges and how to navigate them in order to bring AI solutions to market and ensure appropriate monitoring post-implementation.
Regulation around GenAI as been a hot topic for months, even at Vivatech in Paris earlier this year, and there seems to be no ambiguity as to how far regulations go. Contrasting this, an audience member posed a brilliant question to the panel: where is it that we should regulate more? Where is there a clear lack of regulation in this space?
Brenna Loufek, SaMD Regulatory Affairs Lead from the Mayo Clinic, responded to this question with a statement that left the biggest impression on me from the whole conference: “I think there is a gap in regulations which address health equity and systemic bias”. It is well known that unrepresentative data sets pose real dangers in the applications of AI technologies. Brenna continued to circle back to this point throughout the panel, hopefully heightening everyone’s sensitivity to this urgent issue in the developing field.
Aside from the noteworthy speakers and two energetic MC’s narrating the event, there was a variety of workshops to attend with topics such as Demystifying Generative AI - Shape use cases where generative AI adds real value to the Health Sector. Public healthcare administration was also a large topic at the event, with sessions addressing the AI4HealthyCities initiatives by the Novartis Foundation.
A small selection of startups exhibiting their innovations, such as: Visium and Unit8 in the data science space, Kemtai with motion tracking technology for physio therapy, My Blue Label to fast track regulatory compliance, Smitch with health tracking, Encord for building genAI systems, and a few more.
Lastly, the summit also had a dedicated stage for African startups to pitch their healthcare innovations to investors and an international audience, such as Lifesten health tracking, data sharing for practitioners with Medtech Africa, secure medical chats offered through Vulamobile, and Clue 3 for patient monitoring systems, among others.