Rolando Grandi

Cyberhealth - Artificial Intelligence’s new frontier

It’s the 2060s, and the French CEO of digital company Transparence is getting ready to market Endless, a project to transplant the human soul – every personal aspect of an individual – into an artificial ‘body’. Although we are a long way away from Marc Dugain’s brilliantly imagined world [1], artificial intelligence (AI) has already begun to change how we look at medicine. With rising global spending on healthcare expected to exceed $10 trillion in 2022 [2], healthcare services worldwide are making the shift towards digital solutions. AI is a ray of hope for this sector.

AI is making contributions across a range of disciplines, including biotechnology, e-therapy, epidemiology, surgical robotics, smart prosthetics and drug safety. Rapid progress is being made in all areas. AI is improving – and drastically reducing the cost of – medical research. As an example, the cost of DNA sequencing at US medical technology company Illumina has fallen from $1 million in 2007 to $1,000 in 2019. It is expected to drop to $100 over the next decade. Unprecedented levels of data generation mean that AI will be able to help develop personalised medications and therapies for each patient. 

In 2019, MICROSOFT and ASTRAZENECA, an English-Swedish pharmaceutical group, launched the extremely promising AI Factory for Health, a business accelerator for European AI start-ups. Specifically, it is providing support to start-ups specialised in oncology, such as Owkin. Founded by a mathematician and an oncologist, this young Paris- and New York-based start-up specialised in machine learning applied to medical research is using AI and big data to speed up the discovery of new cancer drugs, while fully respecting patients’ data thanks to transfer learning. This is a revolutionary AI approach that is delivering results: in October 2019, Owkin announced a major breakthrough in the treatment of tumour biology.


E-health is alive and well 

In China, where there are 12 million medical professionals for a population of 1.4 billion, virtual assistants are revolutionising access to medicine. Connected healthcare platforms like WeChat by TENCENT and Good Doctor by PING AN HEALTHCARE AND TECHNOLOGY – which doubled its revenue in the first half of 2019 – are performing very well. Although France hasn’t made the leap quite yet, healthcare apps are becoming more widespread. Qare provides access to remote consultations from your mobile device, which are reimbursed by the Social Security system. Could this be a simple solution when traditional healthcare is unavailable?


Robots for your every need

Another highly-promising area being explored is robotics, on which the global medical industry spent $6.5 billion in 2018. Robotics makes machines more perceptive, helps them to make better decisions and complete tasks more effectively, and the appearance of robots is transforming the healthcare industry. Robot hosts are providing cognitive stimulation for seniors in retirement homes; smart prosthetics are repairing or improving human body function; and medical robots are improving surgical dexterity. One example of this is INTUITIVE SURGICAL’s Da Vinci system, which has already completed over five million procedures worldwide. Another involves a robotic arm operated using 5G technology which, in 2019, enabled a Chinese surgeon to complete the first ever brain surgery… from 2,000 miles away.

In this rapidly developing market, there are a vast number of areas to which AI can be applied. In 2035, the gross value added from the healthcare sectors of 12 developed economies is estimated at $2.26 trillion and, when you add in the contribution from AI, $2.721 trillion [3], which is more than France’s GDP.


[1] Transparence, M. Dugain, Gallimard, 2019
[2] Global Healthcare sector issues in 2019, Deloitte
[3]How AI boosts Profits and Innovation, Accenture & Frontier Economics, 2017