Empowering healthcare in the Middle East through AI 

Empowering healthcare in the Middle East through AI 

In this article, we hear from Dr Mohammed Hammoud, a computer science faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (part of Qatar Foundation) and the creator of Avey, an AI app that helps people self-diagnose accurately, connect with doctors, order medicines and share their thoughts in a safe space. Dr Hammoud believes AI can propel an already-burgeoningly successful HealthTech industry in the Middle East and shares his thoughts on the ‘ally’. 

Dr Mohammed Hammoud, a computer science faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University

In recent years, the Middle East has experienced a rising wave of HealthTech innovation, transforming how healthcare services are delivered and accessed across the region. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an invaluable aspect of healthcare innovation, playing a pivotal role in reforming health systems, revolutionising traditional practices, and making healthcare more accessible. For regions with overstretched health systems or limited access, this technology has the potential to be revolutionary in achieving both better and more equitable healthcare. 

Despite its clear benefits, AI is often seen as a threat to doctors and the healthcare industry, who fear the technology will replace humans, as well as the longstanding paradigm of how the industry has delivered care. Yet the evidence shows that AI is an ally to humans, not a replacement. AI can serve both the providers and the recipients, streamlining the process and making healthcare more patient-centred.  

For example, AI-powered HealthTech tools like my own app, Avey, which helps people self-diagnose accurately, connect with doctors, order medicines and share their thoughts in a safe space, are already seeing enormous uptake. Over 1.1 million users have downloaded the app across 175 countries.  

Self-diagnosis apps are transforming the way people approach their health, empowering individuals to take control of their well-being and make informed decisions about their medical needs. These apps have the potential to improve access to medical information and reduce reliance on traditional healthcare systems, making them an important tool for promoting wellness around the world. A surge in HealthTech companies in the MENA region has underscored this trend, with some of the most promising fields dedicated to telemedicine and wearable technology. 

From the provider’s perspective, AI can act as an assistant, automating medical documentation and streamlining administrative tasks, which reduces operational inefficiencies and saves valuable time for healthcare practitioners to focus on patient care. 

As I look at the development of AI, some of its most remarkable features are medical diagnosis and natural language understanding. These features allow patients to self-diagnose instantly and accurately, after which they can be matched and connected with the right doctors if needed. This helps mitigate the pressure on healthcare infrastructures and triage the right cases to the right doctors at the right time, decreasing the probability of medical errors. During consultations with doctors, patients’ symptoms can be extracted on the fly and diagnostic insights can be communicated to the doctors in real-time, avoiding medical errors. Finally, AI can automatically write medical notes, helping doctors reduce the time they spend on documentation tasks and enabling them to provide higher-quality care to patients. 

Medical diagnostic systems have become an integral part of AI, sitting at the centre of this paradigm shift as a fundamental aspect of HealthTech innovation. In an era where information is readily accessible, we are increasingly turning to digital platforms to assess patients’ symptoms and seek guidance on potential diagnoses. However, the reliability of the information obtained through generic search engines and large language models is often questionable, leading to misdiagnosis and unnecessary anxiety. Consequently, specialised and reliable medical diagnostic systems have become more important than ever.  

Given the consequences of misdiagnoses, it is critical for AI-based HealthTech and systems to undergo rigorous research and testing using standard methodologies in science and medicine. This has been our approach at Avey: to create a peer-reviewed, reliable and accurate AI self-diagnostic model, which was extensively researched, designed, developed and tested for more than four years before it was safely launched.  

AI still has a great deal of runway to transform the healthcare landscape. To achieve its full potential, however, we need a shift in how it is perceived by health professionals, who should look at it as an ally and collaborator, rather than a threat. AI’s role in healthcare innovation extends far beyond diagnostic accuracy. AI is a leap towards a high-quality, accurate, and patient-centred healthcare system that bridges the gap of healthcare disparity. The integration of AI into healthcare systems in the Middle East not only continues the region’s journey towards a better healthcare system but also holds the potential to revolutionise every aspect of healthcare delivery, driving efficiency, efficacy and equity. 

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