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IBM’s Mehool Patel on Artificial Intelligence in Health Care

Don’t think “replacement.” Think “assistant.” 

That was advice Mehool Patel, M.D. (’98), M.B.A., had for attendees of the May 6 VITALS: Visionary Health Leadership in Action speaker series presented by Northeast Ohio Medical University.  

The associate chief medical officer of IBM’s HOPE (Health Officers Pursuing Excellence & Evidence) team was discussing ways in which Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help to address the current – and growing – shortage of radiologists. It was one of several focuses of his presentation for the final webinar of the 2020-21 series. 

More than half of a radiologist’s time (64%, according to Dr. Patel’s source) is spent on non-interpretive tasks. When large amounts of data are gathered to establish what is known as “ground truth” (empirical evidence), radiologists can use AI to help them identify changes in images – changes that could help in determining a diagnosis or treatment for a patient.

In his presentation, Dr. Patel noted how AI can flag areas of concern for a physician. For example, when breast cancer spreads to the lymph nodes, AI can help identify metastases, thus improving accuracy and reducing clinician errors. 

In the business of health care delivery, AI can also help solve challenges such as delays in training new physicians in shortage areas (including treatment of rare diseases) – delays that happen due to difficulties in recruiting and retaining new talent.

Training physician leaders

At NEOMED, Dr. Patel is a co-dyad leader for Foundations of Disease and Treatment and the course leader for Clinical Informatics and Technology, so he’s used to considering the student’s point of view. Addressing both working professionals and students in his VITALS remarks, he said that health care needs to pivot to a data-driven approach. The health care work force (including students) needs more training in artificial intelligence, data science, block chain and quantum computing, he emphasized. In Dr. Patel’s role at IBM, he assists in crafting materials used to provide free education using IBM solutions in the health fields; this will include NEOMED as well as other institutions, such as historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) like Morehouse College.  

Among the many questions asked during the Q&A part of the VITALS event, which was moderated by WKYC-TV’s senior health correspondent Monica Robins, one was at the heart of concerns expressed multiple ways: How do we prevent over-reliance on computers?

AI can be a valuable assistant to help providers give improved patient care, said Dr. Patel, and it will do it best if providers constantly remind themselves of something: All of the technology and AI you use needs to be at the service of the patient.  

VITALS is now on summer hiatus. It will return with a new series of speakers in September. 

Watch this past year’s master sessions by our nation’s most innovative leaders.