In its constant pursuit of helping citizens get a more and relatable understanding of various tech-related policies, initiatives and services, OpenGov endeavours to speak directly with those directly responsible.
The Republic of the Philippines signed Republic Act No. 11223: the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act into law on 20 February 2019; the landmark law was designed to address the country’s lack of adequate and efficient health care system.
It aims to reform and improve the current health care system by ensuring that all Filipinos, especially low-income individuals, stay healthy and productive in their work, resulting in higher incomes and improved lives.
The UHC Act envisions:
- An integrated and comprehensive approach to ensure that all Filipinos are health literate, provided with healthy living conditions, and protected from hazards and risks that could affect their health;
- A health care model that provides all Filipinos with access to a comprehensive set of quality and cost-effective, promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative health services without causing financial hardship, and prioritizes the needs of the population who cannot afford such services;
- A framework that fosters a whole-of-system, whole-of-government, and whole-of-society approach in the development, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of health policies, programs, and plans; and
- A people-oriented approach to the delivery of health services that is centered on people’s needs and well-being, and cognizant of the differences in culture, values, and beliefs.
To learn more about this and how the nation is addressing these sensitive and complex aspects of its digital journey, OpenGov Asia had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Enrique A. Tayag, Director IV, Knowledge Management and Information Technology Service, Department of Health (DOH).
As the Head of DOH’s Knowledge Management and Information Technology Service (KMITS), Dr. Tayag is responsible for overseeing its day to day operations.
He ensures information and communication technology (ICT) will deliver goals for both health information and health services.
He explained that KMITS has nothing to do with the private sector. They serve the central office as well as the regional offices of the Department.
It is made up of three divisions: IT infrastructure and connectivity, software and information systems design, and knowledge management.
The infrastructure and connectivity division is in charge of procurement and equipment maintenance. Any request for equipment will go through them for approval.
The software and information systems design division pertains to their team of in-house developers, who are responsible for designing, programming and monitoring their programs.
The third, which is knowledge management, oversees the website as well as protects the archives.
“We should see the Filipinos getting healthier because of technology. If using it would bring them stress and make them sick, then it will defeat its purpose.”
Dr. Enrique A. Tayag
Dr. Tayag shared that they have a data centre; it was in 2012 when they migrated from a paper-based information system to an electronic and digitalised one.
The primary purpose of investing on Electronic Medical Records (EMR) was to effectively manage patient care. One benefit would be less trouble for the physician in locating information about the patient as it is stored electronically. Whereas paper-based records have the tendency to get lost, or worse, damaged and destroyed by calamities such as typhoons, which usually plague the country.
Two systems were developed, one for primary care and the other one for hospitals. The initial uptake was slow, 20% for the first 3 years due to several factors that include infrastructure and connectivity.
Add to that the presence of multiple EMR providers. DOH advised the providers on the criticality of inter-operability so that the different systems will be able to speak and integrate with each other.
However, problems rose because patients do not always go to the same hospital or health care centre. Going to one or the other requires the patient to keep two separate records, which basically contain the same information. They are still finding a way for these two separate systems to communicate.
Eric clarified that the UHC Act in the Philippines is not about having free medical care. It is about giving every Filipino access to affordable quality health services that they need, without resulting to empty pockets or more poverty.
He highlighted that for UHC to be properly implemented, it would require digital health. They reached out to lawmakers for the passage of an E-Health Bill, which is still being studied. He explained that the Bill would regulate the use of technology, ensuring that health providers have the correct credentials to use IT. Ultimately, this is for the protection of the people so that they will get the proper and correct care.
Furthermore, implementation of the UHC law would focus on the Poor, Public Health, Province-wide and Public Health facilities (4 Ps).
When asked for an ICT initiative that KMITS has done in line with this, Dr. Tayag proudly answered, “Human rights.”
He proceeded to explain that it is actually HRITES, an acronym that is easily remembered if one calls it human rights.
H stands for Health Information Exchange and Health Information System.
There is a plan in place that will require the different agencies and organisations to share health-related data for data analytics. Recognising trends, through the use of data, can help the sector predict possible scenarios and find ways to prevent them from happening.
To prepare for that, the Department was able to send one staff member to the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) to undergo a 14-month training course on data science.
R stands for Registries of health providers, patients, services, and facilities.
There is a database of registries that is currently being populated with this information. Having one will make the location of availability much easier to track.
For instance, a patient, from a certain area, comes in to ask where they can avail a certain medical service or see a specific medical practitioner. It would be easier to pinpoint the nearest available hospital or centre where they can have the service done or know where they will be able to see the specific doctor.
I stands for Infrastructure and Connectivity.
This is where DOH is working with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). KMITS can provide the computers needed but DICT is responsible for providing the connectivity.
T stands for Telehealth and Telemedicine.
Connectivity is critical for Telehealth and Telemedicine to succeed. Tele-psychiatry can also be under this umbrella. This allows for virtual consultations. There is no need for the patients to travel for a day, depending on how far they are, in order to access specific services. The benefits of this include convenience and faster results.
E stands for E-Supply Chain.
Technology such as barcoding and RFID will be introduced. This makes tracking of medicine supply much easier, thereby improving the process. It will solve problems concerning the lack of vaccines and medicines.
S stands for Skilled ICT workforce.
The workforce should be a merge of the skillsets of both health providers and IT experts. Health providers should have an understanding of IT as they will be the ones using the systems.
IT experts, meanwhile, should know and understand the health processes so that the systems they will create can address the gaps.
Risks and Challenges
A major challenge to the implementation would be money. The project’s success would depend on the budget. Eric mentioned a plethora of mitigations to address this such as doing the project in stages, scaling down to what can be afforded or to go into a public-private partnership (PPP).
Another problem would be human resources. The people are not equipped with the proper skills. Eric shared that in some hospitals, the nurses are performing IT tasks because, according to him, IT experts are expensive. Rather than allot money for an IT person, which is not a priority, they would task current workers to take on the role of one.
There are still areas in the country without connectivity, which will hinder the goal of the project. Sending images and information is critical. Without a fast and stable connection, it might be too late for the patient.
Expected Outcomes and Measures of Success
The expected outcome is to streamline the processes, provide healthcare information to the people and be able to guarantee an improved experience for all. In addition, it should be able to adequately support the implementation of the Universal Healthcare Act.
The success of the project will be measured by its coverage. The target is that 80% are able to gain access to the system and at the same time, be able to use it with ease.
Additionally, impact indicators should show that the initiative had really helped improve the health of Filipino citizens.
The Chief Dental Officer of the Ministry of Health (MOH), Associate Prof Chng Chai Kiat highlighted their role in fostering collaboration, exploring innovation and propelling oral health into the future. Digitalisation, a key element of this transformation, takes centre stage providing a vibrant space for scientists to delve into technological advancements shaping the future of oral health.
Over the next few days, 60 local and international speakers will unravel cutting-edge technologies, artificial intelligence (AI), digital dentistry, biomaterials, orofacial devices, therapeutics, and more.
Oral diseases, affecting 3.5 billion globally, not only compromise health but also pose a substantial economic burden. In Singapore, the 2019/2020 National Adult Oral Health Survey revealed high prevalence rates, emphasising the need for effective strategies.
Assoc Prof Chng underlined the significance of oral health surveillance studies, crucial for policymaking and health system planning, while research becomes a driver for innovation in delivering quality oral care.
Population health takes precedence, aligning with Singapore’s healthcare reform through the Healthier SG initiative. The ageing population becomes a focal point, prompting the need for preventive care to ensure good oral health. Population oral health studies become instrumental in understanding responses to interventions across generations, contributing to effective policymaking.
A notable endeavour is the SG70 cohort study, “Towards Healthy Longevity,” integrating oral health research into mainstream public health initiatives. Led by the National University of Singapore, it examines the effects of biological, lifestyle, and socioeconomic factors on healthy ageing. A representative sample of 3,000 Singaporeans aged 70 and older will be followed for the next 10 to 15 years.
Digital dentistry solutions take a leap forward with the ongoing development of a clinically integrated workflow to produce removable partial dentures efficiently. Spearheaded by SingHealth-Duke NUS Medical School, this research proposal employs 3D dental prosthesis printing, biomaterials, and regenerative dentistry, catering to the oral needs of an ageing population.
Industry collaboration has become integral, and a noteworthy example is the development of an antiseptic mouth rinse with anti-viral properties. Originating during the COVID-19 pandemic, the study by the National Dental Centre Singapore has successfully partnered with a homegrown oral care brand, showcasing a synergy between oral health research expertise and industry knowledge.
Digital dentistry solutions have revolutionised dental practices by offering precision, efficiency, and enhanced patient experiences. Utilising advanced technologies such as intraoral scanners and CAD/CAM systems, these solutions ensure precise measurements and accurate diagnoses.
Digital workflows streamline traditional processes, significantly reducing chair time and enabling same-day restorations. This benefits practitioners in terms of time efficiency and enhances the overall patient experience, as digital impressions replace traditional materials, providing a more comfortable and less intrusive procedure.
Customisation and aesthetics are paramount in modern dentistry, and digital tools like CAD/CAM systems allow for the creation of highly customised dental prosthetics tailored to individual patient anatomy. The precise colour-matching capabilities of digital technologies contribute to restorations that closely resemble natural teeth, achieving superior aesthetic outcomes.
Additionally, improved communication between dental professionals is facilitated through digital platforms, enabling seamless collaboration on multidisciplinary cases. The ease of sharing digital records with laboratories, specialists, and other team members fosters better coordination in delivering comprehensive patient care.
Beyond the immediate benefits, digital dentistry offers long-term advantages such as cost-effectiveness, as reduced material costs and increased efficiency offset initial investments.
The accessibility and secure storage of digital patient records contribute to better continuity of care, while ongoing technological advancements, including the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and 3D printing, ensure that dental practices remain at the forefront of emerging trends.
Hence, digital dentistry has become an essential component of modern dental care, providing practitioners with tools to deliver high-quality, patient-centred services in a technologically advanced environment.
The introduction of the E-Travel Customs System at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in conjunction with key stakeholders represents a significant stride in the direction of enhancing national security and streamlining customs processes in the Philippines.
This transformative system, developed in coordination with the Bureau of Immigration (BI), the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), marks a significant leap in digitising data collection processes for travellers and crew members arriving in and departing from the Philippines.
The integration of the Electronic Customs Baggage Declaration Form (e-CBDF) and Electronic Currencies Declaration Form (e-CDF) into the BI’s eTravel System is a pivotal step in the evolution of border control practices. This collaborative initiative aims to optimise customs procedures, bolster health surveillance, and facilitate in-depth economic data analysis.
The E-Travel Customs System, a unified digital data collection platform, streamlines the passenger experience at airport terminals. Its standout feature is the integration of the Electronic Customs Baggage and Currency Declaration interface, formerly part of the BOC’s I-Declare System, introduced last year.
Travellers and crew members can now utilise a user-friendly, single web portal that consolidates the border control requirements of the Bureau of Quarantine, BOC, BI and the BSP.
This not only enhances the overall passenger experience but also enables the BOC to receive advanced information for effective risk profiling. Besides, the timely sharing of information with AMLC and BSP strengthens the nation’s commitment to combat money laundering and ensure financial security.
BOC Commissioner Bienvenido Y Rubio expressed confidence in the E-Travel Customs System’s potential to revolutionise customs processes, stating, “This collaborative initiative demonstrates our commitment to innovation and efficiency in customs management.”
The E-Travel Customs System will play a pivotal role in ensuring the security of the borders and fostering a seamless travel experience for all. Commissioner Bienvenido added that they are dedicated to advancing the customs practices, aligning with global standards, and safeguarding the interests of the nation.
The BOC cited that the E-Travel Customs System stands as a testament to the government’s dedication to providing cutting-edge solutions for border control, aligning with international standards, and advancing towards a more secure and efficient customs environment. The collaborative efforts of the BOC, BI, AMLC, BSP, and DICT signify a commitment to innovation, ensuring that the Philippines remains at the forefront of modern customs practices.
The E-Travel Customs System represents a paradigm shift in customs management, transcending mere technological enhancement. It stands as a strategic initiative meticulously designed to reshape and fortify customs practices, infusing them with agility, heightened security, and alignment with global best practices. This innovative system is not merely an upgrade; it is a holistic approach aimed at ushering in a new era of efficiency and adaptability in customs operations.
As the Philippines embraces this technological leap into the future of border control, it reaffirms its unwavering commitment to establishing a customs environment that goes beyond traditional boundaries. The system’s multifaceted capabilities, ranging from streamlined data collection to real-time risk profiling, showcase its transformative potential.
By prioritising technological advancements, the nation aims to enhance the overall travel experience, reduce procedural bottlenecks, and strengthen its position in global efforts to ensure secure and seamless border management.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) recently visited Dumangas, Iloilo, to witness the demonstration of SARAi, a cutting-edge remote-sensing technology developed by the University of the Philippines Los Baños.
This initiative is part of NEDA’s ongoing efforts to harness the potential of remote-sensing technologies for gathering timely crop data, a crucial element in providing anticipatory inflation policy advice through the Inter-Agency Committee on Inflation and Market Outlook (IAC-IMO).
Project SARAi, standing for Smarter Approaches to Reinvigorate Agriculture as an Industry in the Philippines, focuses on monitoring agricultural production. During the demonstration, the Dumangas SARAi team showcased the generation of crop commodity maps using satellite data. The validation process involves a mobile phone app or a specialised drone, ensuring accuracy in monitoring the growth and health of crops in Dumangas.
While SARAi has proven useful at the local government unit (LGU) level, its current pilot implementation is limited to a few LGUs. NEDA Assistant Secretary Reynaldo R Cancio emphasised the need for broader implementation to fully tap into its potential for guiding national policy-making. Acknowledging challenges faced during the technology’s introduction to pilot LGUs, Reynaldo highlighted financial resource constraints and a lack of appreciation for the technology’s benefits as major hurdles.
NEDA proposed national government support for the deployment of remote-sensing technologies like SARAi, particularly for LGUs with financial constraints. He stressed the importance of coordination among various remote-sensing projects to avoid duplication and ensure applicability for national-level inflation management.
As NEDA continues to work with the IAC-IMO, the focus remains on providing inflation policy advice using existing data sets. Simultaneously, efforts persist in studying the potential of remote-sensing technologies like SARAi as invaluable tools for gathering essential data in the ongoing pursuit of effective inflation management.
In addition, NEDA has taken a significant step towards advancing the digital landscape in the Philippines with the release of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for Republic Act No. 11927, popularly known as the Philippine Digital Workforce Competitiveness Act. This strategic move, approved on October 2023, reflects a meticulous consultation process involving various stakeholders, including government agencies and private sector representatives.
NEDA Secretary Arsenio M Balisacan emphasised the crucial role the Act plays in equipping the workforce with digital technologies and skills while fostering a dynamic innovation ecosystem. The IRR outlines the establishment of the Inter-Agency Council (IAC) for the Development and Competitiveness of the Philippine Digital Workforce, chaired by NEDA and composed of eight other key agencies.
This Council will be the primary body responsible for planning, coordinating, and implementing initiatives to enhance the competitiveness of the country’s digital workforce, with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) serving as the secretariat.
The Act empowers the IAC to formulate the National Roadmap on Digital Technology and Digital Skills, laying the foundation for programmes aimed at upskilling, re-skilling, and training the digital workforce. In a bid to streamline information dissemination, the Council will establish a centralised online portal harmonising existing portals of member agencies. This portal will provide comprehensive details on training and skills development programmes, certifications, and scholarship opportunities.
These initiatives directly address identified gaps in digital technology and skills mapping, ensuring that Filipinos across the nation have access to the skills and competencies essential for navigating the digital landscape. The focus on digital content, platforms, innovations, entrepreneurship, and technology aligns with the ever-evolving demands of the global labour market, positioning the Philippines as a competitive player in the digital workforce arena.
Having robust and effective public services is a fundamental goal for every country aiming to enhance the quality of life for its citizens. Quality public services, especially healthcare access, are pivotal in societal well-being and development. As a basic human need, the significance of quality public services in healthcare becomes even more prominent.
New Zealand government is aware of fostering its public services. In light of this, New Zealand has embraced a transformative journey by integrating digital technologies to enhance the accessibility and efficiency of its public services. The introduction of the rural after-hours telehealth service is a testament to the commitment of public health authorities to leverage technology for the benefit of citizens, especially those in remote areas.
This initiative aligns with the broader agenda of digital transformation sweeping across various sectors. The transformative service is co-commissioned by Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora and is delivered through a collaboration between three leading telehealth organisations in New Zealand.
Rural communities now have two convenient methods to access the telehealth service. The public can contact 0800 2 KA ORA (0800 252 672), or their rural healthcare provider can refer them. This dynamic service, operational for a week, has already engaged 20 rural practices, with more set to join in the coming days.
When individuals contact the service, a triage process is initiated by skilled nurses and kaiāwhina. Patients are seamlessly referred to a doctor if necessary. Jess White, general manager of telehealth organisations, spoke about this innovative platform that provides rural communities an additional option for receiving care.
Dr Sarah Clarke, National Clinical Director for one of the telehealth organisations at Te Whatu Ora, underscored the significant impact of this service on the most isolated communities, where access to after-hours care, particularly without reliable internet access, has been a persistent challenge. Selah Hart, Deputy Chief Executive from one of the telehealth organisations at Te Aka Whai Ora, underscores the relief this service brings to rural whānau, particularly those with young children who previously had to endure long journeys for after-hours medical care.
Operational on weekdays from 5:00 pm to 8:00 am and providing 24-hour coverage on weekends and public holidays, the service is staffed by a team of kaiāwhina, nurses, GPs, and emergency medicine specialists. This coverage ensures accessibility for enrolled and unenrolled individuals in rural areas, enabling them to increase their quality of life.
Te Pae Tata, the Interim New Zealand Health Plan 2022, serves as a strategic framework that spotlights the healthcare needs of various demographic groups. Te Pae Tata underscores the importance of enhancing their access to high-quality and timely healthcare services. The emphasis on rural healthcare is a testament to New Zealand’s commitment to equitable health outcomes and a proactive step towards addressing the specific needs of these communities.
This new rural clinical telehealth service complements New Zealand’s existing telehealth options, with Healthline (0800 611 116) continuing its regular operations. As technology evolves, these telehealth services can serve as a foundation for further innovations.
The introduction of this service signifies a commitment to advancing healthcare through digital innovation, ensuring that even the remotest communities have access to quality healthcare, further solidifying New Zealand’s position at the forefront of telehealth advancements.
Across the world, tech is improving health outcomes and patient experiences. For instance, OpenGov Asia reported that in Indonesia’s healthcare industry, robots are crucial, assisting surgeons in procedures, providing rehabilitation therapies, and even delivering medications to patients. Telesurgical robots offer enhanced skill and precision, minimising invasive procedures and improving patient outcomes.
Similarly, in the U.S., researchers at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago have harnessed the power of machine learning to revolutionise vaccine design. MIT researchers have introduced medical technology advancements, a wearable ultrasound monitor fashioned as a patch, that holds promising implications for individuals with bladder or kidney disorders, offering a more accessible means to monitor organ functionality.
The seventh annual Gerontech and Innovation Expo cum Summit (GIES), a pioneering tech-centric event co-organised by the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) was inaugurated at the esteemed Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The global pace of population ageing is accelerating at an unprecedented rate. According to the United Nations, the demographic aged 65 and above is projected to burgeon from 10% of the global populace in 2022 to a staggering 16% by 2050.
This demographic shift is particularly pronounced in Hong Kong, with projections from the Census and Statistics Department indicating that the proportion of elderly individuals will surge from 20.5% in 2021 to a staggering 36% by 2046. This extrapolation signifies that more than one in every three Hong Kong residents will belong to the elderly demographic.
Dr Sunny Chai, Chairman of HKSTP, emphasised the pivotal role of gerontechnology in revolutionising the city’s landscape, stating, “Gerontechnology stands as an indispensable tool in our efforts to craft a smarter and more adaptive urban environment, particularly tailored for our ageing population. With a robust gerontech ecosystem comprising over 70 companies, HKSTP remains steadfast in its commitment to elevate the well-being of the elderly and fortify our healthcare infrastructure through seamless collaborations encompassing governmental bodies, industrial entities, academic institutions, and research sectors.”
GIES has evolved beyond its initial role as a mere platform for gerontechnology awareness. It has transformed into a pivotal nexus for industry stakeholders, facilitating collaborative engagements, policy formulation, and technological advancements crucial for steering Hong Kong’s societal, economic, and technological growth.
Apart from being a stage for innovation, GIES is a networking hub fostering partnerships aimed at enhancing elderly care and fortifying Hong Kong’s status as an elder-friendly city. This year’s edition, spanning from November 23 to 26, boasts an impressive showcase featuring close to 800 innovative solutions curated by over 200 exhibitors, representing a remarkable two-fold increase since its inception in 2017.
Under the overarching theme of “Age Smarter with Hub of Gerontech,” the HKSTP pavilion stands as a testament to innovation and progress, uniting 43 Park companies to showcase breakthrough advancements across seven pivotal categories. These encompass health screening, vital sign monitoring, rehabilitation and cognitive care, fall risk management, service operations, tech-enabled care, and sensory aids.
Occupying a gross floor area of 500 square meters, this year’s HKSTP pavilion represents the most extensive showcase since the inception of GIES in 2017. Notably, the inclusion of seven InnoHK centres, including three from Health@InnoHK and four from AIR@InnoHK, debuting their pioneering gerontech solutions at the adjacent “InnoHK Zone,” further accentuates the depth and breadth of innovation on display.
To immerse attendees in a hands-on experience and actively engage end-users, HKSTP has meticulously curated an interactive zone within its pavilion, themed as “Rehab@Home.” This setting replicates a home environment, showcasing 13 specialized rehabilitation products and solutions designed for seamless integration into domestic settings.
Complementing this experiential zone are the “Gerontech Ambassadors” drawn from physiotherapy students at Tung Wah College and elderly ambassadors from Lingnan University’s “Jockey Club Gerontechnology and Smart Ageing Project.” These ambassadors are stationed to offer firsthand insights and share personal experiences regarding user-friendly solutions.
While advancements in technology, medicine and healthcare offer longer life spans, ageing does have challenges. Hong Kong has been eager to be a more inclusive country and aims to better care for its elderly.
OpenGov Asia reported that the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) showcased the technological achievements within the gerontechnology field through the Jockey Club Smart Ageing Hub Project. Collaboration among experts from various disciplines was facilitated to share their technological advancements and best practices and discuss the future of Hong Kong’s gerontech landscape.
The National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), through the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Cyber Security Research, is currently developing a research project involving implementing Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms for diagnosing malaria. This research aimed to design and build a computer-based diagnosis system enriched with the implementation of AI algorithms to determine the health status of patients related to malaria.
Through AI integration, this system can identify whether a patient is affected by malaria and continue the diagnostic process by identifying the species of plasmodia and the life stage attacking red blood cells.
This step enhanced the accuracy of diagnosing malaria and opened opportunities for developing more precise and customised treatments.
Artificial intelligence significantly contributes to the efficiency of diagnostic processes, providing more accurate results and enabling faster and more effective treatment for patients infected with malaria.
AI technology in the malaria diagnosis process reflects a development in medicine and health technology, expanding the potential to detect and manage infectious diseases.
Thus, this research not only reflects scientific progress but also has the potential to make a significant positive impact on global efforts to combat infectious diseases, particularly malaria.
Currently, malaria is predominantly a concern in tropical and subtropical regions. Three diagnostic methods exist to identify plasmodium parasites in the blood: Rapid Diagnostic Test, Polymerase Chain Reaction, and peripheral blood smear microphotograph, which has become the standard.
The Head of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Cyber Security Research, Anto Satriyo, emphasised that the morphology of plasmodia changes over time, so the diagnostic system is built to identify each life stage of each parasite. “We also developed a system to automate the diagnosis using Arduino, as hundreds of fields of view (thick smear: 200 leucocytes, thin smear: 500-1000 erythrocytes) need to be analysed for the final diagnosis decision, especially during Mass Blood Surveys in malaria-prone areas, especially in Eastern Indonesia,” he explained.
The Thick Blood Smear Microphotograph CAD Malaria system, previously developed through a diagnostic process, begins with reading thick blood smear slides in the first field of view. After being captured by the camera, the image is processed by the application to determine the presence of malaria parasites. “The image is then saved as data. After completion, the motor control system will shift the slide to the right to obtain the second adjacent field of view. The next process is taking images of the second field of view for analysis and storage. This process is repeated until the minimum number of fields of view diagnosed is reached,” he asserted.
Experimental data were collected from various regions in Indonesia by the Malaria Laboratory of the Eijkman Centre for Molecular Biology Research while they built the diagnosis system. “It is envisioned that the system can be used to assist field officers so that diagnoses can be made faster and more accurately,” he concluded.
AI technology in malaria diagnosis represents a significant breakthrough in medical efforts to improve the accuracy, efficiency, and speed of the diagnostic process for this disease. Beyond clinical benefits, the development of this system also drives advancements in knowledge and technology in the fields of artificial intelligence and medicine.
By continuing to explore the potential of this technology in the future, it will not only be beneficial in diagnosing malaria but will also contribute to understanding and managing other infectious diseases. As a result, applying artificial intelligence technology in the context of malaria diagnosis opens the path toward more advanced, responsive, and targeted healthcare.
Researchers at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago have harnessed the power of machine learning to revolutionise vaccine design. In a study published in Chemical Science, the team utilised artificial intelligence (AI) to guide the discovery of small molecules called immunomodulators, potentially paving the way for more effective vaccines and robust immunotherapies for cancer treatment.
The challenge lies in navigating a vast chemical space where the number of drug-like small molecules has been estimated to be a 10^60—surpassing the number of stars in the visible universe. To tackle this complexity, the researchers employed machine learning to guide high-throughput experimental screening, providing a systematic and efficient approach to identify molecules that could induce the immune response.
Professor Aaron Esser-Kahn, emphasised, “We used artificial intelligence methods to guide a search of a huge chemical space. In doing so, we found molecules with record-level performance that no human would have suggested we try.”
The AI-guided approach marked a potential first in the field of vaccine design. Professor Andrew Ferguson, who led the machine learning efforts, highlighted the transferability of tools from drug design to immunomodulator discovery. While machine learning is commonly employed in drug design, its application in this manner for immunomodulators is an advancement.
Immunomodulators alter the signalling activity of innate immune pathways within the body, particularly the NF-κB and IRF pathways. These pathways are crucial in inflammation, immune activation, and antiviral response. Previous high-throughput screens identified molecules that enhanced antibody response and reduced inflammation when added to adjuvants in vaccines.
The team integrated the results with a library of nearly 140,000 commercially available small molecules to expand the pool of candidates further. Graduate student Yifeng (Oliver) Tang utilised active learning, a machine learning technique, to efficiently navigate experimental screening through molecular space. This iterative process, guided by the AI model, uncovered high-performing small molecules that had never been identified.
After four cycles and sampling only about 2% of the library, the team discovered molecules that improved NF-κB and IRF activity. One standout molecule demonstrated a three-fold enhancement of IFN-β production when delivered with a STING agonist, holding promise for more potent cancer treatments.
Professor Esser-Kahn highlighted, “The challenge with STING has been that you cannot get enough immune activity in the tumour or have off-target activity. The molecule we found outperformed the best-published molecules by 20%.”
The researchers identified several generalist immunomodulators capable of modifying pathways when co-delivered with agonists. These molecules could have broad applications across various vaccines, simplifying the path to market.
The team plans to continue this process, searching for more molecules and urging collaboration within the scientific community to share datasets for more exploration. Their future goals include screening molecules for specific immune activity, such as activating certain T-cells or discovering combinations that provide better control of the immune response.
In the quest to find molecules that can effectively treat diseases, the intersection of machine learning and immunomodulator discovery opens new possibilities for advancing medical science and developing innovative solutions for vaccine design and cancer immunotherapy.