Vision for a more tech-focussed health sector

ICHEC director Prof Desplat addresses the HRB Conference in Dublin.

Health conference hears of the need for a HPC infrastructure to support emerging technologies



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27 November 2018 | 0

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 view was outlined by Prof JC Desplat, director, Irish Centre for High End Computing (ICHEC), speaking at the Health Research Board (HRB) National Conference at Dublin Castle. He described how society can make use of new technologies, such as 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,” said Prof Desplat.

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 paediatrics, Georgetown University Hospital, Washington DC, and Dr Howard Johnson, clinical lead, Health Intelligence, 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.

Prof Desplat 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 from Scotland, where the government has helped modernise the health system, including the creation of a dedicated AI centre, Prof Desplat also laid out a number of recommendations for the future of Irish healthcare. These included 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, and a top down approach, setting out the requirements for a national infrastructure roadmap, with an emphasis on gaining public acceptance for these new technologies.


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