Can Generative AI Help Advance Health Equity?

The race is on to apply and scale emerging technology to private and public healthcare operations.

A number of consulting firms are eager to harness almost real-time developments in generative artificial intelligence, specifically large language models (LLMs). Eager to apply cutting-edge solutions on behalf of their clients, there is a great deal at stake for the early adopters. An article published today by the consultancy O3 World discussed a number of those advantages from a healthcare perspective, in particular how accessibility can be transformed across a spectrum of unique populations.

From the O3 World website:

As we navigate the ever-changing landscape of healthcare, one thing remains clear: Generative AI is our ally in fostering a more inclusive, accessible, and equitable healthcare ecosystem. These points demonstrate how Generative AI is making patient care not just a service but also an accessible experience for all.

Governments at every tier are often later adopters of these advancements, and sometimes are not able to harness the power at all due to the cost-restrictive nature of emerging technology. But governments can look out for how the private sector is taking advantage of those opportunities to anticipate when and how these kinds of programs are able to come online for residents.

Any government run healthcare operation would certainly thrive in an ecosystem with the capabilities O3 outlines on their blog. The handful that stood out the most concerning the public health equity space were:

    • Improved communication for individuals with speech and hearing impairments
    • Adapting medical language to easily understood formats
    • Language translation and interpretation
    • Screen reader enhancements for the visually impaired
    • Voice-activated healthcare assistants for the mobility impaired
    •  ADA digital accessibility compliance for digital platforms

But a great deal of research is still required to make sure these programs can be applied safely. An article from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) explored the benefits and drawbacks of these LLMs and yielded the below visualization of what challenges lie ahead for those looking to adapt the technology quickly. The chart was from a 2023 study on the LLM application in medical education.

At a glance, the research shares a number of benefits with the O3 World assessment. Another study from the NLM presented an even deeper dive into the complications found in the provider space, but not without a wealth of benefits. These are only a couple of the many studies on the LLM applications in medicine currently in the NLM database. A search of “artificial intelligence” in the database yields more than 175,000 articles.  So the race is quite certainly on. If effectively developed, applied, and regulated LLMs have the potential to bring an almost unimaginable level of equity in access to care in both the public and private space.

Read more on the O3 World vision of accessibility in patient care.