In today's health-care landscape, where precision and speed are key, two powerful forces are conspiring to change how diagnostics and patient care are delivered. Medical tests can be done at home, providing results faster than sending samples to a distant lab.
People all over the world turn to Google products like Search, YouTube and Fitbit for insights about their health and well-being.
Several studies have been conducted on how AI can help people to improve their health-care, including digital tools for health-care workers.
As the recent Africa HealthTech Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, digital health innovators and public health experts gathered to discuss AI-powered health-care tools. Siya Madikane, Google South Africa communications and public affairs manager, talks about the transformative influence of AI on health care in Africa.
Searching for skin conditions using images
It might be difficult to accurately describe skin rashes or moles with words alone. People can take a photo, upload it and, using a tool such as Google Lens, get visually comparable matches. This is useful when you don't know how to describe an abnormality on the surface of your body.
Users in the US and Japan have been able to use Google Lens to search for information about skin diseases using photos rather than words.
Improving maternal health outcomes
Ultrasounds are effective in identifying potential issues in early pregnancy, but capturing and interpreting ultrasound images requires years of training and experience.
Partly because of a shortage of experts, up to 50% of pregnant people in low-resource settings do not get ultrasound screenings during pregnancy.
“In our paper published last year, we show that AI models can make ultrasounds more accessible to lightly trained ultrasound operators in under-resourced settings.
“Now, we’re working with Jacaranda Health, a Kenyan non-profit focused on improving health outcomes for mothers and babies in government hospitals, to validate the use of AI in clinical settings.
“Through this partnership, we’ll conduct research to understand the current approach to ultrasounds in Kenya and explore how new AI tools can support point-of-care ultrasound access for pregnant women,” said Madikane.
Using Open Health Stack to build apps for health-care workers
Across Africa, front-line health workers form a critical link between a community and the health-care system. Unfortunately, care co-ordination and data quality are two areas in which they frequently encounter difficulties.
Health-care developers in Africa may now make use of Google's Open Health Stack to create next-generation digital health applications to enable improved treatment.
Screening for tuberculosis using AI
According to the World Health Organization, tuberculosis (TB) is the ninth leading cause of death worldwide, with more than 25% of TB deaths occurring in Africa.
While TB is treatable, it requires cost-effective screening solutions to help catch the disease early and reduce community spread.
This year, Google partnered with an AI-based organisation headed by Right to Care, a non-profit entity with experience in TB care in Africa, to make AI-powered screenings widely available across sub-Saharan Africa.
Supporting access to emergency obstetric care
AI algorithms integrated with Google Maps can optimise emergency response systems and ambulance routing.
By analysing real-time data such as traffic conditions, road closures, and hospital availability, AI can help efficiently identify the closest and most appropriate health-care facilities for emergency obstetric cases.
This ensures that expectant mothers in distress receive prompt medical attention, reducing the risk of maternal complications and allowing health-care providers to intervene and offer remote consultations or guidance through telehealth services.