AI is leveraged in many industries, and healthcare is prime amongst them. The article examines the perceptions and viewpoints Ghanaian healthcare workers have about AI health applications


SwissCognitive Guest Blogger: Randy Adjepong, AI Engineer, Editor


Artificial Intelligence is great, it’s fashionable, more importantly, it scales! The knowledge of its full potential hasn’t been understood yet, but we can see the great innovations through voice recognition, facial recognition, and image classification.

Artificial intelligence, a construct that dominates the fourth industrial revolution is evading most people. It either is too abstract and complex to understand, or coupled with Hollywood’s bombast, a manufactured fear for it.

In rural Africa, I believe Artificial Intelligence, at this stage no means an elixir, can still pose a great solution to big problems we face, especially in the healthcare field.

Short Survey

In the quest to find out the perception and attitudes healthcare professionals had about Artificial Intelligence, I disseminated a survey through a medical practitioner friends network to ascertain their honest opinions and feelings about the use of AI.

My survey, using a social research approach made use of a mixed methods survey combining a questionnaire and interviews to further appreciate the information in the (subjects) own words. Statistical tests were employed to derive meaningful insights from the data using R.
Out of a possible sample size of 250, a pool of 77 participants fully completed the questionnaire and 10 agreed to a follow up interview.

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The GAAIS questionnaire as designed by Schepman and Rodway contained items which examines the subjects’ general attitudes toward artificial intelligence. As a standardised scale the score could suggest whether a participant expressed a more positive attitude or a negative attitude.

What really is AI?

Overall, 80% of participants expressed a positive attitude towards AI which showed that healthcare professionals in Ghana should be in favour of using big data in electronic health records, deploying image classification in medical diagnosis, and using robots for laparoscopic surgery.

Regardless of their positive outlook on AI, a further interview showed they had little knowledge on application in the healthcare field. As though I was not surprised by this, the sheer knowledge they showed about other applications such as voice recognition with SIRI, haptic feedback in goal line technology were still impressive.

What this suggests is that the general acceptance and appreciation of Artificial intelligence was prevalent amongst healthcare professionals and the knowledge of specific healthcare application was virtually non-existent.

Artificial Intelligence is the machines’ ability to mimic human intelligence thereby making work much easier for humans. Humans are always in search for the most productive and efficient way to complete tasks, and AI provides an elixir to all such processes.

Where we are in the AI journey?

If amid all these technological innovations, Ghana as a whole fails to catch up with it as their Europe or American counterparts, we face a challenge of leveraging these technologies.

Quite recently, start-up companies like zipline through drone activities have assisted in transporting medical equipment to the rural parts of Ghana. An intervention which will have costed the government much money and time wastage in the past.

Consequently, there has been a upspring of virtual health clinics as well which are promising patients a much-renewed sense of healthcare service and allowing for healthcare givers to administrate a personalised service delivery.

As though virtual healthcare clinics powered using big data and machine learning may not solve the average Ghanaians healthcare pleas, there exist other alternative and solutions which could be used in averting deficit in the doctor to patient ratio.

The complexities involved

But assimilating new technologies in any new culture or organisation is not a walk in the park. People are not usually readily accepting of change and a careful assessment of my survey shows the reservations some medical professionals may have about using AI in their line of work.

A junior physician said that “in using AI through virtual healthcare clinics it disrupts provider-patient relationship which is of prime importance in medical care. A patient usually may not know what exactly the problem may be but through body language and speech it could assist me in arriving at diagnosis”

Another junior physician lamented:

“We don’t have the necessary foundation to deal with the large amount of data we produce here in our healthcare facilities. I think it is much better to focus on other aspects of the healthcare system than deploying technologies which will eventually render some people jobless”

What I find interesting about the notion of allocating resources to more important facets of the healthcare system at the expense of AI is that, AI as a technology is built for a society like ours, the notion that AI is a fancy technology only adaptable by much advanced and wealthy countries is far from the truth.

Ratio of doctors to 100,000 population in selected low and middle-income African and high income countries (1995–1999). (Source: Liese et al 2003.)

Remote patient monitoring an intervention that is made possible through the combination of Artificial intelligence and Internet of things is something that effectively assist the deficit in provider patient ratios, maternal mortality rates will be effectively reduced, and communicating information will be much effective.

I can only deduce that strong opinions of fear and hostility towards AI is widespread across continents, and the need to educate people further on its use cases and domain-specific applications will be important.

Like any new technology Africa has its own problems of which AI can solve optimally, it’s not meant only for the fancy FinTech industry but in healthcare, mining and oil and gas industries.

If you are interested in reviewing the data collected for the short survey, it is available upon request here

About the Author:

Randy Adjepong is an AI researcher/entrepreneur. He enjoys debunking myths about AI in the most deprived parts of the World.