ICHEC Director sets out vision for a more technology-focused Health Sector at the HRB Annual Conference

Prof. JC Desplat sets out vision for a more technology focussed Health Sector at the HRB Annual Conference

In order to advance the health sector, Ireland needs to adopt a long term plan to roll out state-of-the-art infrastructure in High Performance Computing (HPC). This is the view of Prof. JC Desplat, Director of the Irish Centre for High End Computing (ICHEC), who spoke at the Health Research Board (HRB) National Conference today at Dublin Castle. His keynote speech outlined how society can make use of new technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and deep learning to help doctors make better decisions and improve the overall efficiency of the health system. “Because of the huge amounts of data involved, these new technologies will require the use of HPC systems for processing and storage,” he said.

With a running theme of 'Big Data in Health – the opportunities and challenges ahead,' the event also saw talks from leading researchers including Dr. Joel Selanikio, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington DC, and Dr. Howard Johnson, Clinical Lead - Health Intelligence, at the Health Service Executive (HSE), whose special interest is in safely exploiting the potential of available data in the quest for better health for patients, their families and the general population.

Desplat's talk stressed the importance of HPC infrastructure for the health sector, looking at how AI via deep learning is changing the way doctors work. He presented an example where an AI system improved the accuracy of burn depth diagnosis compared to a cohort of doctors. “The machine was trained on huge amounts of data - in this case a thousand images of burns - in order to recognise and identify its targets,” he said. “This technology is a good example of how these tools will aid doctors in the future.”

Using a Case Study of the Scottish example where the government has helped modernised the health system - including with the creation of a dedicated AI centre - Desplat laid out a number of recommendations for the future of Irish healthcare, including the necessity to focus on a plan for the installation and maintenance of HPC infrastructure, stressing how Ireland is at risk of falling behind other European countries. He called for a top down approach, setting out the requirements for a national infrastructure roadmap, and also emphasised the point that gaining the public acceptance of these new technologies will be key.