Arif Alvi met with researchers from AKU to discuss how research involving
artificial intelligence (AI) can help Pakistan meet child health targets under
the Sustainable Development Goals.
informed faculty from the University’s department of paediatrics and child
health of the government’s plans to harness the power of technology and
precision analytics to increase the quality of life of children across the
country. The federal government is looking for promising projects that can
bring healthcare to the doorstep of every child across the country via the
nationwide Lady Health Worker Programme.
delegation presented a summary of the country’s major health indicators at the meeting
and pointed out how Pakistan needs to intensify efforts to reduce the incidence
of neonatal mortality and lower the burden of infectious diseases. They also highlighted
findings from a World Bank report that lists Pakistan as one of the countries
facing a critical shortage of physicians, nurses and midwives.
“In order to
give Pakistan a fair chance of achieving the SDGs regarding health we need to
transform health systems using technology and artificial intelligence. This
transformation can happen via multiple pathways including workforce engagement,
automation of tasks, supervision and effective governance,” said Dr Muneera
Rasheed, a senior instructor at AKU. “These insights hold the potential to make
work comfortable, pleasurable and to create purpose-driven health systems.”
Hasan, an associate professor in paediatrics, briefed the president on how a
team of researchers* were using a machine learning model that uses ultrasounds
to study blood flow to a foetus’s crucial organs. The algorithm analyses images
to determine markers of under-developed organs which can point towards babies
at risk of stillbirth, perinatal mortality and other neonatal illnesses.
shared how researchers at the University** were using data from children in ER,
the emergency room, to improve the experience of young patients who would end
up being admitted to the hospital. Machine learning, a type of artificial
intelligence, is being used to analyse hospital data on patient demographics,
waiting times, billing details, average length of stay and customer surveys to
foresee factors that impact patient satisfaction. Such insights can help
improve a hospital’s understanding of patient expectations which can improve
communication and provide a more positive experience for all parents and
patients, said Dr Rasheed.
At the end
of the meeting, President Arif Alvi discussed the creation of a wide-ranging
national taskforce that would create a roadmap and develop partnerships on the
use of AI initiatives to achieve health targets under the SDGs.
* Dr Zahra
Hoodbhoy and Dr Fyezah Jehan are a part of the project research team.
** Dr Momin
Kazi and Akbar Rajani are also part of this study.