Hopkins alum discusses barriers to AI in health care

By VIVIAN LI | October 24, 2019

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in various industries is becoming increasingly widespread. Soon, AI may become more integral to hospitals.

Indeed, health care might be the field that the public is most reluctant to see AI applied to. On Oct. 22, Dr. Hassan A. Tetteh addressed the employment of AI in health care in his talk titled “The Future of AI, Health, and Creativity.” He was invited by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Nanobiotechnology (INBT). 

Tetteh is a surgeon who specializes in thoracic recovery and transplantation. He is also a U.S. Navy Captain and received his M.B.A. from the Carey Business School. 

Currently, he serves as the Health Mission Chief for Warfighter Health at the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC). The United States Department of Defense (DoD) established JAIC in 2018 in an effort to harness AI technology for national security purposes. 

In his presentation, Tetteh explained that the DoD laid out its vision for the JAIC in its 2018 summary of the AI strategy.

“The summary not only highlighted the importance of AI, but also the opportunity to implement it in the present and future. And the DoD’s response was to establish the JAIC, an effort that would propagate throughout the department.” Tetteh said.

There are multiple missions operating under the JAIC, including device maintenance, humanitarian assistance, cyber security, data sharing platform and warfighter health, which is the division that Tetteh serves.

Tetteh illustrated that his department plays a role in furthering the development and facilitating the application of existing research and innovations.

“We are a mission that stems from the community, and is led by practitioners,” he said.

According to Tetteh, there are three key aspects to the functioning of the Warfighter Health mission: government organizations such as the DoD which oversee the mission, industry partners who invest in the innovation and experts who conduct the research.

“The massive scale of our data provides allows experts to train their data,” Tetteh said.

In fact, the warfighter health data extends beyond those active in military to the veteran and beneficiary population. Additionally, it is balanced in terms of gender and encompasses ethnically diverse populations. By working with a representative database, experts can better perfect their algorithms. According to Tetteh, the JAIC initiative managed to resolve clearance issues and grant outside experts access by setting up a login system to a shared platform.

He also explained that the warfighter health division aims to seize the potential of AI technology for record analysis and logistics management, which, operating with its current methods, can often be overwhelmed in battlefield conditions. 

He further described the mission he serves through the framework of the intricate relationship between AI and human-centered technology. 

“We are human centered yet AI enabled,” Tetteh said. 

He claimed that a significant issue in clinical work is that developments and innovations happen without input from practitioners. This not only leads to a mismatch between developed solutions and current needs, but also clinicians reluctant to adapt to new technology. 

However, Tetteh is also confident that with its innovative and collaborative approach, the warfighter health mission will be able to change people’s vision of AI in health care.

Apart from introducing his current work, Dr. Tetteh also spoke about his vision for the future of AI technology.

“I believe that AI will be the general purpose technology of our era,” Tetteh said.

To better illustrate this point, Tetteh compared the doubts people have about the value of AI technology to the initial reactions people in the past had to historical groundbreaking inventions. For example, he explained, people used to be skeptical of electricity, which has now become an integral part of our lives. 

Likewise, when light bulbs were invented, people had doubts about the new technology. Tetteh is therefore confident that in the foreseeable future AI technology will also be embedded in people’s daily lives.

Tetteh admits that the greatest barriers of implementing AI stem from culture and education. 

“This is especially apparent in the health-care field, where people tend to have the greatest reluctance and sensitivity,” Tetteh said.

He concluded his lecture by reflecting on the the talk’s theme of “creativity.” Tetteh emphasized that being curious about the future is essential for those who want to pursue careers as engineers or researchers.

“Creativity, for engineers, is to align the right solution to the right problem, at the right time.” Tetteh said.

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