Jun 08, 2023

Riyadh summit discusses the future of AI in medical field

RIYADH: The HealthTech Innovation Summit and Expo in Riyadh, held June 5-6, brought together providers, experts and students, showcasing innovative technology that promises to improve the quality of healthcare.

During the event, healthcare professionals, innovators, entrepreneurs, and investors were given an opportunity to delve into the future of the medical field by spotlighting artificial intelligence, smart devices, precision medicine, diagnostics, bioinformatics, biotechnology, virtual reality, medical imaging, innovation, and medical entrepreneurship.

SyncVR Medical, one of the many companies to showcase at the expo, provides an all-in-one application platform that can be useful for patients.

From hardware to software, its products propose treatments for pain anxiety, stress reduction, rehabilitation, and medical education through immersive simulations.

"VR can do more in society, in the world, than just entertain gamers," Floris Van Der Breggen, CEO of SyncVR Medical, told Arab News.

Originally based in one hospital in the Netherlands, SyncVR Medical now supplies 200 hospitals across Europe with its health technology and aims to be the largest platform for extended reality healthcare on the continent.

The company's presence at HealthTech came with the intent to expand into the Arab region.

"There's so much more hunger for technological improvement (in Saudi) than you find in Europe, actually, a lot of curiosity and an intrinsic motivation to improve," the CEO said.

Before the Kingdom adapts new tools to healthcare practices, however, the system itself needs some work, Dr. Bahjat Fakieh of the King Abdulaziz University suggested.

"Taking technology before we establish the proper system could lead to failure … If we’re looking to get to the top, it's not that difficult. The difficulty is remaining at the top," he said.

The will to excel is already in the works under Vision 2030.

A report recently published by the Digital Government Authority indicated that the field of healthcare demonstrates readiness for integration with emerging technology.

The Kingdom has already seen the incorporation of these technologies with apps like Sehhaty, the Seha Virtual Hospital, and the adoption of AR and VR in the Saudi Food and Drug Authority's control procedures.

"AI is not here to replace humans, it's here to assist humans," Prince Sultan University's Dr. Anis Koubaa said during the summit.

With tools that enhance training, provide distraction techniques to reduce pain during procedures, and offer treatment for issues like anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder through VR, technology promises to not only create a more immersive experience for patients and practitioners but also diagnose and examine more accurately.

However, there are few laws in place currently that regulate the usage of AI. Many challenges still lie in its cost and accessibility, system integration methods, ethical considerations, issues in security breaches, and research around the technology itself.

In the Kingdom, the Society for Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare is making strides in publishing viable studies and creating a community of data scientists and AI experts to reach the full potential of these emerging platforms.

Ali Al-Anazi, co-founder of SAIH, told Arab News: "There's a shortage in many specializations (in the medical field), and AI is here to serve that.

"I personally believe that Saudi could be the leading country in publishing top-tier AI research in healthcare across the globe for many reasons. We have huge databases that are much more accessible than in foreign countries."

The summit hopes to accelerate the adoption of technology-driven solutions across the field.

Prof. Ibrahim Al-Saraa, chairperson of the HealthTech Scientific Committee, said: "The pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital health solutions in providing virtual healthcare for patients. Digital transformation has proven essential today, as leading experts expect that health technology plays a significant role in shaping the future of healthcare."