The Innovation Network Danish Healthtech broadly explores the topic of artificial intelligence (AI). A new national strategy focuses on the potential of citizens, businesses and the public sector using AI. Professor at Aalborg University, Birthe Dinesen, welcomes the new strategy and points out the importance of focusing on the topic right now.
In March 2019, the Danish government launched a new National Strategy for artificial intelligence. The vision is clear. Denmark must lead the way with responsible development and use of artificial intelligence. The strategy sets up four tracks that characterize the Danish approach:
- Focus on ethics and the individual
- Danish scientists must research artificial intelligence development
- Danish companies must achieve growth by developing and using artificial intelligence
- The public sector must use artificial intelligence to offer world-class service.
In May 2019, ATV (Academy of Engineering Sciences) published ‘Better Health with AI‘ which point out the potential of using artificial intelligence and the challenges facing the health service if the potential is to be realized.
Artificial intelligence in health care
Artificial intelligence covers several functions and technologies where computer programs and machines perform complicated calculations and algorithms that are otherwise performed by human cognitive properties. When the large amounts of data we have in healthcare are combined with complex decision-making and logistical processes, a good basis for using artificial intelligence is created. This applies to diagnostics, treatment and decision support.
As one of the most digital countries in Europe, the starting point in Denmark is good. We are already on the road and the prerequisites for intensifying the work on artificial intelligence are broadly in place.
Health has high priority and is one of four issues in the National Strategy by the Danish government. Life science, including the field of health technology, is one of the great strengths when you look at Denmark. The purpose of prioritizing artificial intelligence in healthcare is to be able to provide faster and better diagnosis as well as more targeted treatment of diseases.
In April 2019, Birthe Dinesen, professor at the Department of Medicine and Health Technology at Aalborg University, headed the New Horizons for Connecting Health – Artificial Intelligence and Entrepreneurship conference co-financed by the Innovation Network Danish Healthtech. The conference focused on artificial intelligence, and when Birthe Dinesen looks back on the day, there are three particular messages she believes are emerging.
- Ethical guidelines
Corresponding to the National Strategy and the paper ‘Better Health with AI’, the ethical guidelines were discussed at the conference at Aalborg University. Artificial intelligence brings a new way of making and supporting decisions. This means that the health care system must ask a number of ethical questions about the relationship between the benefits of using artificial intelligence, the consideration of the rights of the individual and our societal values.
What does it take to make us feel safe about a social robot? What does it take for us not to feel monitored? And can the robot replace human relationships? It is a hard balance that requires a sustained dialogue with all parties involved, says Birthe Dinesen.
Artificial intelligence is a theme that requires common guidelines and ethical frameworks that practically enable companies to work with artificial intelligence while ensuring GDPR and transparency in relation to citizens and patients.
2. Building af business case
The other point Birthe Dinesen points out is that anyone working with artificial intelligence should consider what the business case should look like. Here it might be a good idea to distinguish between the US and China. The two countries account for 48% and 38% of global artificial intelligence development.
The paper ‘Better Health with AI’ emphasizes that in a smaller country such as Denmark, we need to work with the EU when developing and researching artificial intelligence. Just as we should use pre-competitive and platform collaborations across industries and universities. The paper recommends that we concentrate on specific initiatives, such as the Danish hearing aid industry, which, on the basis of cooperation between private companies and Danish universities, created the world’s first digital hearing aid.
3. Danish health data must come to life
Finally, Birthe Dinesen emphasizes that we in Denmark are in a position where we must not stop.
The Danish health data needs to come to life and that requires priority. In fact, we need to spend even more resources within AI both in the municipalities and in the rest of the health care, says Birthe Dinesen.
The paper emphasizes that we should rush to find a sound way to bring Danish health data in play. Right now, there is a struggle to come first with future health solutions and if we do not put Danish data at stake, they end up being irrelevant.
In order to succeed with bringing Danish health data into play more data for training algorithms is required. Greater validation work remains to be done before existing data can be used – despite the fact that Denmark already has extensive and good quality data sets.
There are also challenges in recruiting IT staff. Today, 60 percent of companies report challenges in attracting employees with IT skills. Private investment in artificial intelligence is also lower in Denmark than in the countries we normally compare ourselves to.
Only by focusing on the topic we will create a debate that can push the agenda forward. That is why I am pleased about the launch of the national strategy, which will characterize the priorities with data and decision support, says Birthe Dinesen.
Project coordinator: Charlotte Villadsen
Department of Health Science and Technology, Faculty of Medicine, Aalborg University (partner in Danish Healthtech)