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Precision Driven Health (PDH) was proud to sponsor Hack Aotearoa 2020, New Zealand’s Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare conference. The event, which this year included a health datathon for the first time, took place last Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the University of Auckland Business School.

Hack Aotearoa 2020 was jointly hosted by the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Critical Data, and was a chance for data scientists, academics and healthcare professionals to come together to discuss the use of data science and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in health.

The conference was well attended, with 190 delegates and six keynote talks. Our highlights included presentations on topics such as the partnership between humanity and intelligent machines, how to work within the limitations of AI, data governance, and Māori data sovereignty.

Dr Leo Celi, Principal Research Scientist at MIT’s Laboratory of Computational Physiology (LCP) and part-time Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, gave the opening keynote address, ‘An awakening in medicine: The partnership of humanity and intelligent machines’.

Dr Celi’s talk explored the ethical aspects of using AI in health, such as the danger of amplifying biases in care. He also pointed out that AI algorithms, if used responsibly, can be used to identify and correct disparities. Dr Celi argued in favour of  developing a standardised set of ethical principles for the use of AI in healthcare because, in his words, “we can’t trust the industry to regulate itself.”

“Healthcare is an imperfect practice, with disparities in care reflecting those in society. While algorithms may be misused to amplify biases, they may also be used to identify and correct disparities.”

As a research scientist at IBM’s Amalden Research Center, Dr Joy Wu was well placed to deliver the second keynote of the day, which covered the limitations of AI in a healthcare context. Dr Wu made the distinction between humans and computers in terms of where their skills lie: computers are good at discriminating small differences, while humans are good at abstraction. It was a timely reminder that we should think of humans and computers working together as ‘intelligence augmentation’, rather than ‘artificial intelligence’. As Dr Wu said, “It’s up to us to make AI in Medicine a tool that augments our intelligence, just in the way our smartphones do.”

“It’s up to us to make AI in Medicine a tool that augments our intelligence, just in the way our smartphones do.”

Dr Joy Wu, Research Scientist, IBM Amalden Research Center

A key theme for Hack Aotearoa 2020 was the use of data for Māori health equity, so we were excited to hear Kirikowhai Mikaere present on Mana Ōrite (Equal Explanatory Power) and the steps towards Māori data sovereignty. Kirikowhai, lead technical advisor to the Iwi (Tribal) Chairs Forum – Data Leadership Group, a member of the Data Ethics Advisory Group and the Kāhui Māori Group for the National Science Challenge: Science for Technological Innovation, explained that Māori have always been custodians of data: the data is held within traditional carvings and weaving, and is stored as stories.

As a result, Māori data sovereignty is a significant issue in Aotearoa with key developments happening in 2020, such as the co-design of a Māori Data Governance model to sit across the New Zealand government data system, and the improvement of administrative data to ensure a flow of relevant iwi data for Māori. This is an area PDH is keen to learn more about as we continue to work towards developing tools to improve health outcomes for all New Zealanders.

“Very few Māori claim to speak on behalf of all Māoridom, so it’s crucial that our health data includes iwi-specific data.”

Kirikowhai Mikaere, Lead Technical Advisor, Iwi (Tribal) Chairs Forum, Data Leadership Group

Inaugural Chair of the New Zealand Data Futures Partnership, Dame Diane Robertson, delivered a powerful presentation on the importance of data governance, and her work with developing guidelines for organisation boards. Dame Robertson’s current focus is on ensuring that boards of directors develop their data governance strategy so that it clearly aligns with their organisation’s purpose and values.

The day ended with a presentation by Dr Omar Badawi and Dr Minnan Xu Philips Healthcare on some of the work undertaken using de-identified data from over 3.5 million ICU patients, with specific reference to deploying AI in a centralised telehealth context. Dr Xu closed the day by wishing everyone luck in the weekend’s datathon.

Hack Aotearoa 2020 was a great credit to conference organiser Dr Mataroria Lyndon and the datathon leadership team – we’re already looking forward to Hack Aotearoa 2021!

Learn more about Hack Aotearoa – Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare