Urgent call for AI integration in public health system


In an era where Artificial Intelligence (AI) profoundly transforms industries, public health stands as a critical domain ripe for innovation. Countries worldwide are leveraging AI to enhance healthcare delivery, optimise resource allocation and empower the health workforce. As Ghana positions itself to join this transformative movement, insights from global forerunners illuminate the path forward.

In the United States, AI’s integration into public health has catalysed significant advancements, particularly in predictive analytics and patient care. The centres for disease control and prevention (CDC) utilise AI to refine infectious disease surveillance, enabling rapid and accurate responses to outbreaks. For instance, AI’s application during the influenza seasons has demonstrated enhanced precision in forecasting outbreaks, critically informing public health strategies and resource distribution.

The economic implications are equally compelling. In healthcare, AI is projected to yield up to US$150billion in annual savings for the U.S. economy by 2026, as per Accenture. These savings manifest through improved operational efficiencies, reduced error rates and more personalised patient care, underscoring AI’s financial and clinical value.

Turning to Europe, the United Kingdom exemplifies AI’s potential in public health. The National Health Service (NHS) has spearheaded several AI initiatives, including the AI Lab, which fosters innovations in early disease detection and patient care management. Notably, AI-driven diagnostic tools are anticipated to save the NHS approximately £1.5billion each year, enhancing healthcare delivery while mitigating financial burdens.

In Asia, Singapore’s proactive AI adoption in healthcare illustrates a commitment to digital innovation. The government’s Smart Nation initiative champions AI-driven solutions, particularly in chronic disease management and elderly care. These efforts are paying dividends; for example, AI-enhanced screenings have markedly improved detection rates for diabetic retinopathy, showcasing AI’s potential to bolster preventive care and mitigate long-term healthcare costs.

As Ghana embarks on this AI journey, these international examples offer valuable benchmarks. The nation’s AI needs assessment should encompass a thorough evaluation of healthcare infrastructure, data readiness and workforce capabilities, ensuring that AI solutions are judiciously tailored to Ghana’s context.

Moreover, Ghana must navigate the challenges inherent in AI integration, including ethical considerations, data privacy and workforce adaptation. Developing comprehensive AI policies and frameworks aligned with global best practices,will be instrumental in fostering a trustworthy AI ecosystem in healthcare.

The educational imperative cannot be overstressed. For AI to truly transform Ghana’s public health sector, investing in AI literacy and skills development among health professionals is paramount. Tailored educational programmes, coupled with continuous professional development, will equip the workforce to harness AI’s potential effectively.

Collaboration emerges as a critical theme. By forging partnerships with academia, industry and international organisations, Ghana can access cutting-edge AI knowledge, build local capacities and secure investments, propelling its public health sector toward innovation and efficiency.

The economic rationale for AI in healthcare is robust. With the global AI in healthcare market poised to reach US$45.2billion by 2026, the economic dividends of AI adoption are substantial. For Ghana, this represents not only an opportunity to enhance healthcare quality and access, but also to catalyse economic growth and position the country as a regional leader in AI-driven healthcare.

The imperative for Ghana to commence an immediate AI needs assessment in public health cannot be overstated. As global exemplars demonstrate, AI’s integration can revolutionise healthcare delivery, streamline resource allocation and empower the health workforce. By initiating a comprehensive AI needs assessment, Ghana will not only understand its unique landscape and requirements but also strategically position itself to harness AI’s vast potential. This endeavour is crucial for aligning technological solutions with Ghana’s specific public health challenges and opportunities.

Therefore, the Government of Ghana, alongside key stakeholders in public health, must prioritise and swiftly embark on this AI needs assessment. By doing so, they will lay the groundwork for informed, effective AI adoption that is tailored to enhance healthcare outcomes, optimise system efficiency, and foster economic growth.

It is an essential step toward not merely adapting to the digital age but leading within it, ensuring that Ghana’s public health infrastructure is robust, responsive and resilient. Now is the moment for Ghana to act decisively, embracing AI’s transformative power to forge a healthier future for all citizens.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any organisation.

>>>I’ll be your wingman on your health journey! The writer is a public health professional with a Master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Springfield, USA and works as a Medical Fraud Analyst at the Illinois Office of Inspector-General. He founded GD Consult in Ghana to promote healthy lifestyles and developed innovative projects, such as a Health Risk Assessment Model for hydraulic fracking operations. He can be reached via [email protected]

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