“AI in Health: French-German perspectives”

By 27. November 2018Events, International

„AI in Health“ – French and German Perspectives on Artificial Intelligence in Health Care

On November 5th, the French Embassy in Germany and Smart Data Forum jointly organized the event “AI in Health: French-German Perspectives” at the Forum’s Showroom in Berlin. High level experts from business, research and politics from Germany as well as France discussed the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the healthcare sector in four panels. The approximately 200 guests attended the event and the French Ambassador to Germany Anne-Marie Descôtes. and Dr. Thomas Gebhart, Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry opened the summit. They both emphased on the strategic partnership of Germany and France with a special focus on French-German cooperation in health and use of AI in the medical domain.

The first panel discussed how AI can improve patient care and in particular how the political framework has to be changed to this regard. The second panel dealt with the question of how AI can support the fight against diabetes. In the third panel, three startup representatives discussed the question of how AI could be used as a diagnostic tool and the fourth panel focused on the use of AI for genome analysis. The keynotes of Prof. Robert Gütig of Charité on “Learning across space and time in spiking neural networks” and Prof. Laurence Devillers on ethical aspects of AI in the healthcare sector gave further exciting insights.

Throughout the event, it became clear time and again that research and business are in need and desire of a close cooperation and dialogue with politics. The first panel showed a strong agreement among the panelists on the overall problem description and Gottfried Ludewig, the head of Directorate General „Digitalisation and Innovation“ at the Federal Ministry of Health anticipated that the healthcare system will undergo a profound change in the next few years due to advancing digitization, with new requirements for physicians and expectations from patients.

Exchange of data and data availability for research and innovation came up at various points during many discussions. For a high-performing medical system, more health data would have to be exchanged, otherwise progress in the area of ​​diagnosis and treatment would be a serious future challenge –  good data is the underlying necessity for developing AI. However, due to its sensitivity healthcare data is often stored in silos and it needs to be addressed without compromising data protection. One of the competitive advantages of Europe over the United States and China is its high standards on patients’ privacy and data protection rules. However, ways need to be found in which more data can be shared with research. In that context, the interesting idea of ‘data donations’, where patients could provide their health data to the research community self-determinedly, was discussed as a strong alternative.

A particular concern was raised by various panelists and in several contexts that there is a massive brain drain – on the one hand from research to industry and on the other hand from Germany abroad. The major technology companies attractive working conditions makes increasingly difficult for research sector and startups to recruit and attract talents.

The event ended with many recommendations for action and impulses from the experts. The event showed that there are numerous starting points for further discussions and that close cooperation between German and French partners can be very stimulating in the future as well.

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This event was supported by:

© Ambassade de France en Allemagne

Prof. Thomas Wiegang welcomes the guests.

© Ambassade de France en Allemagne

The French Embassador in Germany, Anne-Marie Descôtes.

© Fraunhofer HHI

Head of Smart Data Forum, Dr. Jack Thoms, in a conversation between panels.