Interview: The state of generative AI in healthcare

Two healthcare professionals are in a medical facility. One, standing, wears green scrubs while holding a coffee cup. The other, seated, wears blue scrubs and looks at a smartphone.

Dr. Anita Puppe is Senior Consultant Strategy & Business Design at IBM iX DACH. The expert in artificial intelligence and machine learning models in healthcare advises pharmaceutical and life science companies as well as hospitals in the field of innovation. In our interview, we explored the current state of generative AI in the healthcare sector and the challenges it faces.

Hello Anita, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. At medical conferences you get profound insights into the state of AI in healthcare – how would you sum up the discussion?

In the current landscape of German healthcare conferences, it’s astonishing to find that discussions often revolve around topics that seem a decade old. There’s a concerning disconnect when conversations with medical professionals still grapple with the basics of Artificial Intelligence (AI) — questioning its utility and effectiveness. During my last engagement at a conference exclusively attended by medical doctors, I was taken aback by the prevailing scepticism. Many voiced a belief that AI is unnecessary or that human capabilities alone can surpass the efficiency and accuracy of AI-driven solutions. This perspective overlooks the transformative potential of AI in healthcare, a domain where innovation can lead to significant advancements in patient care, operational efficiency, and the overall quality of health services.
Dr. Anita Puppe at conferences and industry events Dr. Anita Puppe at conferences and industry events
Dr. Anita Puppe at conferences and industry events

What reactions do you observe when it comes to AI in healthcare?

In my presentations and workshops, I often lead with a statement that might seem almost too bold: “I don’t want a diagnosis anymore without AI.” This assertion, I’ve noticed, tends to unsettle German doctors, highlighting a stark reality in their healthcare approach. I notice an adherence to traditional methods, with medical doctors still relying heavily on manual processes and patients facing prolonged waiting times for treatment. When I address audiences, there’s a palpable resistance, a mindset steeped in the belief that the authority of the white coat is all-encompassing. Yet, the future of medicine demands a paradigm shift; a medical doctor must evolve to become more of a coach than an omnipotent figure.

This shift towards using technological advancements not only enhances diagnostic accuracy but also personalizes patient care, making it more efficient and impactful. The journey ahead involves guiding healthcare professionals to this understanding, helping them realize that integrating AI and other technologies into their practice is not a diminishment of their role but an amplification of their capabilities.

According to your experience, what are the main hurdles to overcome for the application of gen AI in healthcare? And the opportunities?

Navigating the healthcare landscape, one of the most significant hurdles we encounter is the reluctance of doctors to embrace new technologies. This resistance, frequently cloaked in the pretext of ‘having no time,’ paradoxically overlooks how AI and similar advancements can revolutionize their practice, saving invaluable time. The true essence of AI in healthcare is not to complicate the existing processes but to streamline them, making daily routines more efficient and allowing doctors the luxury to reconnect with their core mission: caring for patients. The opportunity for doctors to ‘be human again’ and engage more personally with their patients is a compelling argument for the adoption of AI. The challenge lies in communicating effectively with professionals who are often overworked and, as a result, may not fully grasp the potential of what the future holds.

As a doctor yourself – how do you intend to get medical professionals to collaborate and overcome their scepticism when integrating technologies such as gen AI into healthcare?

The world is moving towards a more technologically integrated healthcare model, and it’s essential for doctors to begin wrapping their heads around this new reality. The transition may be challenging, but it’s necessary for the evolution of healthcare. As daunting as this shift may appear, it’s an opportunity for medical professionals to redefine their roles and make a profound difference in the lives of those they serve.

As a doctor myself, advocating for this technological integration, my aim is to build trust with my colleagues, assuring them that these advancements are designed to enhance, not hinder, our profession. My purpose is straightforward: to make the lives of my fellow healthcare providers easier, an objective achievable only through embracing technology. The implementation of gen AI and other innovative solutions is remarkably straightforward yet and requires a willingness to adapt and integrate these tools into everyday practice.

The journey towards a more technologically empowered healthcare system is a collective endeavour, demanding openness, trust, and collaboration among medical professionals. It’s about ensuring that as we move forward, we do so with the conviction that technology is our ally, capable of enriching the patient-care experience and reinstating the human touch that is so vital in medicine.

Where does gen AI find open doors?

Gen AI is increasingly being recognized and embraced across the globe, with countries such as Israel, Estonia, and Switzerland leading the way in its acceptance and integration into healthcare and beyond. These nations have demonstrated a forward-thinking approach to technology, recognizing the immense potential that gen AI holds in transforming industries, enhancing efficiency, and fostering innovation.

The global embrace of gen AI highlights a growing awareness of its transformative potential, underscoring the importance of adopting advanced technologies to drive progress. As more countries and industries recognize and harness the benefits, we stand on the crossover of a new era in healthcare and beyond, marked by unprecedented efficiency, innovation, and improved outcomes for all.

How can IBM iX support this transition and what are the next steps?

At IBM iX, we’ve moved beyond these preliminary inquiries, having demonstrated conclusively that AI technology is not only viable but already functioning effectively within the market. References such as the chatbot ISA, the VALIDATE project as AI-based stroke treatment and the cooperation between IBM and Boehringer Ingelheim to advance gen AI and foundation models for therapeutic antibody development demonstrate this.

The essence of our mission is to help doctors see that integrating AI into their daily routines is a step towards becoming not just a better practitioner, but a pioneer in a new era of healthcare where precision, efficiency, and empathy govern. We know that patients today are increasingly informed and empowered, unwilling to accept lengthy waits for appointments that lead to brief encounters with overburdened doctors. They are turning towards solutions that promise not just timeliness but precision – attributes that AI can deliver. The demand for innovations like predictive stroke AI solutions is a testament to a growing preference for technologies that offer control, speed, and accuracy in healthcare management.

Excellent experiences for the healthcare industry – with IBM iX

The digital transformation is permanently changing the healthcare industry. We from the Health Team at IBM iX are here to support you – from strategy and design to technology. We know your challenges and especially your potential.

Feel free to contact us!

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