“This is what I call rock star city,” Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker told the 1,700 participants gathered at the World Medical Innovation Forum, recently hosted by Partners HealthCare. “I’ve never seen such a terrific collection of intellectual capital.” Indeed, the sellout crowd represented the globe’s top health care, biotech, and venture capital firms, who came together to discuss all things artificial intelligence (AI)—its complexities, limitations, and promise.

Over three days of remarks, group discussions, and presentations of disruptive AI applications, participants examined the potential of AI to drive improvements in predicting disease, treating patients, and managing outcomes. Experts discussed an impressive breadth and depth of AI innovations across specialties—from surgery to in vitro fertilization—including:

• A concept applying machine learning algorithms to improve clinical decision-making and reduce errors around costly medical tests, presented by Ziad Obermeyer, MD, an emergency medicine clinician at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH).

• A system using “Surgical Fingerprints” to reduce adverse events by collecting data from previous surgeries to guide real-time decision making in the operating room—a kind of surgical “Waze”—presented by Daniel Hashimoto, MD, a surgical resident at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

• An AI-powered mobile app that delivers cognitive behavioral therapy to enhance mental health care, presented by Sabine Wilhelm, PhD, Chief of Psychology at MGH.

• An application of AI to identify and screen out clinical trial participants who do not take the drug being tested, discussed by Maurizio Fava, MD, director of the Division of Clinical Research at MGH and the vice chair of the MGH Department of Psychiatry.

• The use of AI technologies to make imaging more precise, targeted, and personalized, which Constance Lehman, MD, PhD, Chief of Breast Imaging at MGH, noted can reduce burnout-inducing repetitive tasks.

• Twelve technologies dubbed “the Disruptive Dozen,” identified by Partners faculty for their potential to significantly advance health care in the next decade.

Additionally, the event featured several panels of executive speakers and Fireside Chats with numerous CEOs and industry leaders. First Look presenters Ziad Obermeyer, MD, of BWH and MGH’s Sabine Wilhelm, PhD, also received the Peter K. Ranney Award for embodying the innovative, entrepreneurial and visionary spirit the World Medical Innovation Forum was established to recognize.

In addition to these and other innovations impacting clinical care, presenters also highlighted how AI could impact the backbone of health care, by processing large amounts of data, speeding up drug development, and enhancing care affordability. Though “quality data” were key buzzwords across the forum’s three days, conversations returned again and again to the human role in AI integration. Atul Gawande, MD, BWH surgeon and bestselling author, told Brigham Health President Elizabeth Nabel, MD, that the key to successful integration is to identify clear benefits for patient and clinician alike, and to ensure that providers are ready and willing to use it. “If you give people a great process solution, the perfect innovation tool, and plug it into a ready environment, you make a major impact,” he said.

All told, though the forum did not shy from the real challenges facing AI adoption—from privacy and security to translating data into action—the discussion was overwhelmingly positive, with nearly all participants saying they believed that AI technology could make significant improvements in the delivery of health care.

“I've been in this industry for nearly four decades now,” noted John Kelly, PhD, Senior Vice President for Cognitive Solutions and Research at IBM. “And I honestly believe I have never seen a technology that's as transformative as this one—the opportunity is enormous to transform this industry for better outcomes and lower costs, for the benefit of all.”

For more from the World Medical Innovation Forum and information about next year’s meeting on April 8-10, 2019, click here.

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