Dr. Anant Madabhushi, a research scientist and professor of biomedical engineering at Emory and the Georgia Institute of Technology, will lead the initiative. He says that his experiences growing up in India and as an immigrant in the U.S. drive his commitment to improving health outcomes for all.
“I grew up in a lower-middle income country and I’ve seen firsthand the challenges of access to health care and access to technologies,” he said. “When you talk about places like India and Africa, you have to develop technologies that are affordable.”
Madabhushi said that the institute has secured nearly $70 million in institutional and grant funding, with an overall goal of achieving $300 million in funding over the next two to three years with the help of philanthropic donations.
With the Empathetic AI for Health Institute, Madabhushi and his team will develop affordable AI tools that are both accessible and equitable to provide personalized care for patients. He says that the use of the word “empathetic” in the title was intentional because of the focus on fixing global health problems without burdensome costs, which he says is unique to the work of the institute. He said AI has to be empathetic, taking into account the experiences of a range of diverse populations, to effectively address health disparities.
Madabhushi acknowledged reservations about the use of AI in health, particularly from communities of color.
“If you don’t have data representative of populations of color as you’re developing these technologies, they’re simply not going to work in underrepresented populations or populations of color,” he said. “So, that’s something that we are very focused on.”
Given Georgia’s current health care landscape, where access to care can be a challenge and a lack of Medicaid expansion has left hundreds of thousands without coverage, the team wants to improve patient outcomes in the state.
“One of the other things that we need to consider is the large rural population that we have in Georgia. A rural population that has been largely cut off from the innovations and technology development,” he said pointing out the gaps in rural health outcomes.
In Georgia, 120 of the state’s 159 counties are considered rural. Madabhushi said that the institute intends to work with other health partners around the state, sharing tools that can benefit rural patients.
“Ultimately it all comes down to transparency. If you cannot explain how technology works, there are always going to be reservations and skepticism,” Madabhushi explained.
“We are going to focus on technology that is transparent and understandable, so that both our physicians and patients are going to be able to understand how the AI is making its predictions.”
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