Health Network | Too old for artificial intelligence

The still widespread use of paper records and faxes in the health network prevents Quebec from relying on artificial intelligence to improve the quality of care, reveals a report by the Commission on Ethics in Science and Technology published Thursday . The organization calls on the government to make a “considerable effort” to promote digital transformation.

The Commission notes that the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in the field of health could bring significant benefits in the management and delivery of care as well as in research.

However, several issues and obstacles prevent this from being achieved, “in particular the fact that the use of paper files and faxes is still very present and that the current technological infrastructure is not suitable for accommodating AI”, perhaps we read in the report.

The lack of diversified and quality digital data, compatibility issues and the dilapidated nature of the healthcare network’s digital infrastructure are also factors that contribute to the problem.

This dilapidated state of the network’s digital infrastructure was revealed in particular by the COVID-19 pandemic. “It led to shortcomings and delays in terms of access to information, epidemiological surveillance and communications, which affected the ability of actors to intervene effectively. »

Artificial intelligence requires data in digital format, easy to find and accessible. “This implies in particular the abandonment of paper files and faxes”, specifies the Commission. She therefore raises the importance of “getting more actively involved in the digital transformation of the health and social services network”.

Use of the fax machine “far from efficient”

In response to the request of The Press, the office of the Minister of Health, Christian Dubé, indicated that it was taking the time to analyze the entire report. “We observed during the pandemic that the use of fax was far from efficient. However, he underlines the technological advances made, such as the dashboard to monitor the evolution of the network.

The firm also says that several projects are underway to modernize the health network and make it more efficient, including Prescription Quebec, which aims to digitize all prescriptions, the Digital Health Record and the platform Your Health, an election promise.

On March 29, the government passed Bill 5, which aims to facilitate the safe circulation of data in the health network. “This is the necessary law in order to deploy all of our initiatives”, indicates the cabinet.

Still “very marginal”

For the DD Marie-Pascale Pomey, public policy expert at the Montreal School of Public Health, mobilizing artificial intelligence in health in Quebec is “doable, but still very marginal”.

“We can see that it is possible, like the CHUM, which created a database, particularly during COVID-19, which made it possible to change the method of treating patients thanks to the analysis of data in real time. It is possible, but it is still marginal, because it requires a colossal investment for the establishments and they do not necessarily have the means to do it, ”she argues.

The specialist has also recently conducted a study with establishment CEOs to understand how they use new technologies, including artificial intelligence. “What shocked me the most was that at the time of the Barrette reform, institutions found themselves with 500, sometimes 600 different information systems that did not communicate with each other. And they had no funding to solve it,” she recalls.

We are really very backward in Quebec and it is very complex. Our systems are really airtight and highly dependent on dispensaries of different types of technologies.

The DD Marie-Pascale Pomey, public policy expert at the Montreal School of Public Health

In his eyes, the difficulty of modernizing systems also lies in the fact that recruiting labor is difficult. “People who specialize in artificial intelligence, they have job offers that are at levels that the public system cannot at all match. It’s really not easy to recruit. There is a whole problem of competitiveness and recruitment to consider as well”, underlines Mme Pomey.

“Another element is that in Quebec, it is complicated to design interfaces that allow the distribution of connected objects to patients, such as glucometers and scales that share data. The rules of the game are not clear, it is very opaque. On this, we are at least 10 to 15 years behind France, for example, ”concludes the expert.

With the collaboration of Pierre-André Normandin, The Press

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