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AstraZeneca has opened an African innovation hub that will use the latest technologies to improve the healthcare of the continent’s people.
The pharma giant said that the Africa Health Innovation Hub will have a focus on the largest technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and data generation.
The hub is part of the company’s A.Catalyst Network, made up of more than 20 health innovation hubs. “Building on AstraZeneca’s work in Africa, the hub aims to use the latest science and technology to improve access to healthcare for patients on the continent,” said AstraZeneca.
Gagan Singh, country president of African cluster at AstraZeneca, said: “The launch of the Africa Health Innovation Hub is a significant step in our goal to unlock digital transformation and innovation in health across the continent, paving the way for patient-centric digital health solutions that leave no one behind.”
Last year, AstraZeneca joined the WEF Edison Alliance, a public-private partnership that aims to improve the lives of one billion people through digital inclusion by 2025.
In South Africa, AstraZeneca is partnering with MedSol AI Solutions to help promote the use of AI to detect disease using a Wi-Fi ultrasound probe that can detect breast cancer in seconds.
Coupled with dedicated referral systems, the Melusi Breast AI rapid detection app will be rolled out in rural clinics to help in early detection of the disease and a quicker turnaround time for intervention.
Kathryn Malherbe, CEO and founder of MedSol AI Solutions, said: “Breast cancer is a devastating disease, with many women in our communities only able to access late-stage diagnoses. The Melusi Breast AI project will enable us to leverage technology and innovation to improve early diagnostic detection rates and patient outcomes in local clinics, ultimately saving lives.”
AstraZenca is partnering Tricog Health in Kenya to expand an existing pilot of the use of AI technology in India, which connects patients suffering acute heart problems to health professionals and sends them to the appropriate healthcare facilities. Tricog’s InstaECG AI tools provide rapid diagnosis.
Tricog CEO and founder Charit Bhograj said: “Non-communicable diseases, including heart disease, are on the rise in Kenya and across Africa, and we know that the earlier these conditions are diagnosed, the better chance it is for patients to continue to live long, healthy lives.
“By investing in digital health technology, the Africa Health Innovation Hub is enabling the use of advanced AI to screen and diagnose patients remotely, bringing high-quality health tools to people no matter where they live.”
Companies such as AstraZeneca play an important role connecting tech companies with organisations that are offering healthcare services in Africa.
For example, charitable organisation Amref Health Africa used its partnership with pharmaceuticals giant GSK to get connected with IT service provider Cognizant. The Indian supplier went on to support Nairobi-based Amref in improving how it manages its workforce.
Creating efficiencies through technology comes at a critical time for healthcare in Africa, which faces huge challenges. Diana Mukami, digital learning director at Amref Health Africa’s Institute of Capacity Development, told Computer Weekly last year that there will be an estimated six-million shortfall in the number of health workers needed in Africa by 2030, with the population growing and the challenges increasing.
Read more about AI in healthcare
- If the healthcare sector is to provide affordable, high-quality care as the population ages and the economy falters, artificial intelligence technology will be needed more.
- Artificial intelligence promises to revolutionise healthcare, but even in areas such as medical imaging, where it is easy to spot AI errors, more research is needed.
- A report by the NHS AI Lab and Health Education England calls for all health and care staff to receive training in artificial intelligence.