HCD Conference 2023: Harnessing AI’s Potential In Healthcare

HCD Conference 2023: Harnessing AI’s Potential In Healthcare

“Artificial intelligence [AI] is posed to change the field of healthcare by hundreds of billions of dollars.”

This was the message from Radhika Dirks, CEO and co-founder of XLabs, which focuses on building moonshot companies for the future of artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and neurotech, as she kicked off the 2023 Healthcare Design Conference + Expo in New Orleans in early November.

Named a “Forbes Women in AI,” Dirks brought her expertise to the HCD Conference stage to help attendees explore the technology’s role and potential in the industry.

Setting the stage for the discussion, Dirks noted that it takes approximately $1 billion and nine years to bring a drug to market. Furthermore, 250,000 deaths in the U.S. every year can be attributable to medical errors—a statistic, that, if it was a disease, would be the third largest leading cause of death.

“This number is predictably avoidable and fixable,” and one of the top use cases for AI, she said, adding that the statistic drew her to found Ribo AI (San Francisco) in 2020, which is utilizing AI to change the pace, scale, and face of drug discovery.

Different types of AI technology

During her keynote presentation, Dirks discussed different types of AI that are making an impact, including generative AI, which focuses on creating new content. “Back-of-the-napkin content but you don’t even need the content,” she said. “You just type in what you want to see.”

To illustrate her point, she said asked AI to create a personal website for her, with the results delivered within seconds. Additionally, she said generative AI is “democratizing creativity” by giving billions of users with access to a computer the ability to create.

Predictive AI uses machine learning to identify patterns in past events and make predictions about future ones, which offers potential in finding disease patterns or helping develop cures for diseases. Finally, Integrated AI, she noted is “bursting into the zeitgeist as we speak,” and connecting our devices with AI.

For example, Meta recently introduced a beta version of Meta AI, an advanced conversational assistant that’s available on different apps and is coming to Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses. The technology can give users real-time information and generate photorealistic images from text prompts in seconds to share with friends.

Dirks said she expects digital assistants, such as bots and AI personas, to be everywhere soon, which could change how people relate to one another. “Are AI personas the future of patient and doctor interactions?” she asked the audience.

Role of AI in healthcare

Other changes driven by AI that she sees on the healthcare horizon include tailored care, seamless operations, and next-generation cures. For example, from intake to screening to diagnosis, patients will expect the “same ease, clarity, and functionality of AI in the care experience,” she said. Looking at operations, Dirks said AI can help address the hours and time doctors spend doing paperwork, coding, or writing reports, freeing them up to spend more time with patients.

However, with the speed and magnitude of AI technology comes the potential for misuse and errors (referred to as “hallucinations” in AI). Among recent examples she cited was the image of Pope Francis wearing a puffer jacket—a fake or AI-generated image that received a lot of attention on the internet.

In addition to the ease with which false images or content can be generated, there’s also great potential for misinformation, as AI sources data from the internet, which is driven by likes and clicks and not factual accuracy.

For example, Dirks said upon learning of a friend’s diagnosis with multiple sclerosis, she turned to AI to help find a treatment, eventually researching a drug that was touted as very effective. However, the further she dug into the research, she said the more she realized the AI was wrong.

“When AI is wrong, it doubles and triples down on how wrong it is,” she said.

Best practices in AI

Her advice: “Go deeper,” and trust your intuition to cut through the biases and misinformation. Furthermore, she said it’s important for users to establish their values and ethical foundation to attract good partners and data. “Ethics in this space cannot be a regulatory slap,” she said.

Calling AI a “powerful tool,” she acknowledged the discomfort that some may have with it. Still, she said there’s great potential to help healthcare designers innovate and to “think bigger.”

“This moment in AI is time to transition as leaders but also as humans,” Dirks said.


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