We talk to Dr. Jan Alexandersson, Head of the Ambient Assisted Living Competence Center of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, DFKI about the reasons and motivation for the EIT Health partnership and the role of AI in healthcare.
EIT Health Germany (EHG): “Mr. Alexandersson, what role do you think AI will play in the European healthcare system in the short to medium term? How will AI influence healthcare?”
Jan Alexandersson (JA): “AI will influence all areas in which the various stakeholders (patients, relatives, nursing staff and doctors) can and must be supported. AI processes can help to recognize diseases earlier or to avoid diagnosing and improving therapies. To prioritize, we just need to look at the cost of various diseases in the health care system: the three most cost-intensive areas are brain disorders, secondly cardiovascular diseases and thirdly cancer. At the same time, we have a massive lack of physician and lack of care, which will have a devastating effect on care in general. AI applications can relieve these occupational groups, leaving more time for people. I also see good opportunities here for basic and standard care hospitals to raise the level significantly and thus guarantee an improvement in performance.”
EHG: “In November 2018, the federal government presented the national AI strategy for Germany. Around 3 billion euros are to be invested in total. What will the approaches for our healthcare system look like here in your opinion?”
JA: “The new digital supply law represents a beginning that enables digital services and legally secure use of data. This is the necessary prerequisite for AI technologies to develop their full potential by training on the basis of mass data. It must not be overlooked that international and corporate spending have different dimensions, and I would hope that giving (personal data) and taking (results) have mutual benefits. ”
EHG: “Do you have any AI examples for us that you believe will revolutionize the healthcare system?”
JA: “A revolution would fundamentally change the entire system. AI offers a great opportunity to provide a significant boost. Since the health system is already good in many places, I would rather predict selective but noticeable improvements, for example in the following areas:
EHG: “In general, what is the motivation for the DFKI’s decision to partner with EIT Health?”
JA: “This is flawless win-win! EIT Health gets a competent partner who is very familiar with AI in all its forms – from blue-sky basic research to innovation and results brought to the market by spin-offs The DFKI gains access to an excellent network that allows us to maintain our position as the world’s largest non-profit AI institute, and EIT Health offers the DFKI the opportunity to expand its health skills, all in all: EIT Health + DFKI = innovation towards the market! ”
EHG: “Where do you see synergies and potential in our cooperation? What would be a conceivable concrete goal?”
JA: “The European health systems – and therefore also the German one – are good, but at the same time expensive. The challenge of improving the system can be positively influenced by an innovation engine like the DFKI. The DFKI offers complementary competencies – AI and data science – a transformative combination that is a prerequisite for small revolutions in the entire health system. This year we are initiating a complete research pipeline with approaches for early detection, diagnostic support and telemonitoring in the areas of cardiovascular, neurological diseases, skin and prostate. I am really looking forward to it as an exciting and fruitful collaboration! ”
About Jan Alexandersson
Dr. Jan Alexandersson graduated in Computer Science (M.Sc.) from Linköping University, Sweden, in 1993. He then began working as a scientist at DFKI, first in language technology, then in the research area of intelligent user interfaces as a research assistant in the joint projects Verbmobil and SmartKom of the German Federal Ministry of Research. In 2003 he did his doctorate at Saarland University. He is a DFKI Research Fellow and has headed the Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) competence center since 2011. In 2017, he co-founded the spin-off ki elements, which develops systems for AI-optimized support for neuropsychological tests.