In early June, at the invitation of the European Commission to Brussels (Belgium), I toured some fascinating AI and blockchain-based projects, which the Commission is funding. Across industrial sectors, from healthcare to energy, from construction to retail, engineers are creating new technologies with potentially disruptive implications for the current architectural order of the global economy. One of the technologies, an “AI doctor”, shows great promise for the future of healthcare in Africa.
The solution is called CareAi: an AI-powered computing system anchored on blockchain that can diagnose infectious diseases, such as malaria, typhoid fever, and tuberculosis, within seconds. The platform is engineered to serve the invisible demographic of migrants, ethnic minorities, and those unregistered within traditional healthcare systems. By bringing AI and blockchain together, CareAi uses an anonymous distributed healthcare architecture to deliver health services to patients anonymously. This makes it possible for these invisible cohorts to get access to basic healthcare, and useful contextual information without compromising their identities, for fear of deportation. This is important, as without access to health services, these communities might pose health risks to the wider population.
CareAi has three components, which include the machine, a finger prick, and a lab-on-a-chip — a mature technology that was originally pioneered by George Whitesides, a chemistry Professor at Harvard University. To use it, a finger is pricked for a drop of blood, and the blood is deposited onto the chip, which is then inserted into the machine. The blood sample is anonymized and then analyzed by the CareAi AI-based health assistant that references a vast array of medical and diagnosing libraries, dispensing advice with a corresponding rating of confidence. CareAi’s diagnosis is based on a statistical analysis of all of that data: if I see “A” in your blood and medical journals say that means you have malaria, CareAi can say whether you have malaria up to a certain confidence level. Based on the blood sample, the device would diagnose a disease where one exists. The outcome is delivered on the machine screen with a printout, providing confidence of analysis and further actions which may include prescriptions at participating pharmacies, or escalation for medical attention with NGO doctors who supply anonymous medical treatments.