AI, DATA AND MEDICINE
A good friend of mine is a videographer and vlogger as well; the other day he sent me a video link to his recent project around the subject of artificial intelligence (AI). Watching the video I can across an AI tool called ‘’Ubenwa’’; this software detects asphyxia in seconds. The words Ubenewa and Asphyxia can be high sounding; so, I delved into some brief research, guess what I found? Ubenwa is an Igbo word, which means ‘’the cry of a baby’’ and Asphyxia is a medical condition in infants (3).
Let us dive into some brief findings: Asphyxia deals with the abnormal performance of infants outside their mother, it includes an abnormal change in their breathing rate and blood PH etc. This disorder is a leading cause of infant mortality; with Ubenwa this medical disorder can be detected in seconds. Here is the magic; this software explores machine learning to study the amplitude and frequency of the cry of a healthy child at birth and detects an abnormal cry in the snap of a finger, Boom!!(3)
With this tool available in several primary health care facilities, infant mortality rate is expected to experience a steep decline. Not to forget Babymigo, another tech innovation, designed for expecting mothers. A little research on this app suggested that the team leader of this startup firm experienced firsthand the loss of a loved one during childbirth; this event greatly influenced the idea for this project (2).
Nigeria expects an average of 7 million births yearly and ranks third as regards high infant mortality rate. The number says it all; over 300,000 children never get to celebrate their fifth birthday. This application seeks to lessen this number by providing a network accessible to expecting mothers and answers to questions as regards childbirth, grooming etc. Furthermore, it can refer mothers to professionals or health care centers to bridge the gap of inaccessibility to health care centers or professional help (2).
Tech is revolutionary, crossing borders and making solving problems less a fable and more a reality. Several challenges plague our healthcare system and nation on a holistic view with inadequate data availability as a core issue. Having a wholesome database or statistics is an issue present in the Nigeria community but sectors like the bank and allied institutions have made commendable efforts. With the introduction of BVN (Bank Verification Number); a level of data can be suggested to exist. To take advantage of projects like Health Insurance and other policies, the health care sector must have an all-inclusive data system to achieve the fit of overall health for all.
Within this in mind, we can encourage medical doctors and student doctors to hone their skills or expertise in other fields. Medicine and surgery is a multi-disciplinary course and makes adherents vastly read, so delving into other fields cannot be difficult. The issue that might exist is making tools available to make that transition smooth and easy. Having medical doctors that are programmers, data analysts, financial gurus can be a reality.
Data has always been useful in our field, as early as the 1900s when this sector experienced a level of development. Under the stead of Professor Ransome Kuti; recording the deaths of mothers and child mortality during delivery was encouraged (1). Let us see the bigger picture; our world today survives on data availability and analysis. There is a need to know the actual numbers, the reason for the numbers increasing or decreasing and possible ways to avert or reduce those numbers. So, in simple terms, we can monitor our progress in that field.
With AI, technology and the technical know-how, we can harness several tools in our field to get data and complement the available data in the country. The desired utopia as regards good health might be far-fetched but a step at a time can be encouraging. Today, we have Ubenwa and Babymigo and how about taking patient documentation from paper format to online or detecting symptoms of certain diseases plaguing our continent with the right application. We are nowhere close to our destination but there is hope with technology and AI.
- Bolaji S A and Samina M K. Primary Health Care in Nigeria: 24 Years after Olikoye Ransome-Kuti’s Leadership. [Internet] 2017 [cited in 2020 Apr 7]
- https://solve.mit.edu/challenges/early-childhood-development/solutions/9823. [cited in 2020 Aug 5]
- https://thisisafrica.me/africans-rising/nigeria-ubenwa-app/#:~:text=Nigerian%20innovators%20Ubenwa%2C%20an,Africans%20rising [cited in 2020 Aug 3]