Adoption of artificial intelligence’ll enhance health sector, says Adigwe

Director of National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Dr. Obi Adigwe, has advocated the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in healthcare delivery in the country.
Dr. Obi Peter Adigwe

Dr. Obi Peter Adigwe
Director of National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Dr. Obi Adigwe, has advocated the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in healthcare delivery in the country.

Speaking during the 4th yearly Scientific Conference of the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS), Adigwe said AI innovation in healthcare delivery would enhance process improvement opportunities and create efficiency by mimicking human intelligence through computer manipulated algorithmic exploration of contextual databases.

He explained that AI represents the most effective tool for harnessing God-given resources from the continental for drug and phytomedicines research, development and production.

Adigwe illustrated this by presenting AI for ‘’phytomedicines mapping, where emergent and existing plants and herbal products can be identified, categorised and matched with characteristics of conditions and diseases in a more expeditious and resource-efficient manner.’’

He gave the example of how NIPRD, using its rudimentary AI competencies, emerged the first in the world to predict the utility of Andrographis paniculata for COVID-19.

“This product has been listed for immune support and is being put forward for clinical trials,” he said.

The DG recalled that in the heat of the pandemic, the President of Africa’s foremost Academy, Prof. Ekanem Braide, led a team of scientists and policymakers to undertake a facility tour of NIPRD.

He added: “During the robust engagement, both parties committed to initiating innovative contextual projects that promote development and advancement of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) not just in Nigeria, but across the continent,” expressing NIPRD’s readiness to partner NAS in articulating and implementing AI initiatives.
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While unveiling an ongoing multi-million dollar purpose-built AI and Machine Learning (ML) innovation and incubation facility for efficient phytomedicine and drug discovery, Adigwe also revealed other areas where synergies could be harnessed by leveraging the academy’s immense human capacity.

He stated that AI laboratory facilities at the NIPRD would impact the healthcare delivery system by reducing pressure on the physicians.

“The NIPRD AI laboratory will also be capacitated to enable interventions in patient diagnosis. This will consequently reduce pressure on physicians by working through vast quantities of information to deliver higher quality patient care at reduced costs,” he said.

He further explained that the NIPRD AI lab would support the development of interventions that enhance all levels of healthcare workflow and practice, including workflow optimisation, support for interpretation tasks, quality and safety, as well as operational efficiency.

“Introducing AI interventions for centralised medical record database will unlock potential value for the healthcare ecosystem by providing up-to-date, accurate and complete information for more coordinated and efficient patient care.

“The automation of other mundane and repetitive tasks in the healthcare ecosystem will free up healthcare professionals to tackle more complex problems. This is especially pertinent in Nigeria, given the low professional to patient ratio across all relevant disciplines,” he added.
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