Brazil’s path to opportunities through applying AI in healthcare


The dominion of medicine and healthcare is undergoing a digital revolution, with terms like telemedicine, artificial intelligence (AI), and open health becoming integral to our daily lives. In Brazil, the potential of AI in healthcare presents significant opportunities, promising improvements in diagnosis speed, accuracy, and resource allocation.

A study conducted by the International Research Centre (CIPE) in collaboration with the AC Camargo Cancer Center in São Paulo exemplifies the positive impact of AI. Using AI to analyze imaging scans of 311 women, the researchers successfully predicted HER2 subtype breast cancer and the patients’ response to treatment. This showcases the potential of AI to enhance diagnostic capabilities.

AI’s benefits extend beyond diagnosis, reaching into efficient health resource allocations and crisis preparedness, as seen in its application during pandemics. At an individual level, wearable technologies like smartwatches, equipped with AI, encourage patient adherence to treatments, aid in illness prevention, and collect valuable health data.

A Deloitte report from 2022 highlights the trend of smartwatch manufacturers enhancing their devices to monitor blood pressure more efficiently. With around 1.3 billion adults worldwide suffering from hypertension, the market for such devices is substantial.

Generative AI, exemplified by ChatGPT, is not only making waves in medicine’s drug development but is also positioned as a valuable assistant for front-line staff. Capable of translating technical language, transcribing, and summarizing medical notes, AI chatbots can provide more fluent and accessible communication to consumers and patients.

However, the integration of AI in healthcare requires robust infrastructure and regulation. Globally, parliaments are engaging in discussions on AI legislation, with a 2023 AI Index Report indicating a 6.5-fold increase in AI mentions in legislative processes across 81 countries.

Brazil, like many other nations, has adapted its legislation to accommodate the digital transformation in healthcare. A 2020 law allowed the use of telemedicine during the pandemic, demonstrating increased efficiency in public health financing. The legislation was expanded in 2022 to cover telehealth, making virtual consultations accessible to all health professions.

The Digital Medical Record Law further supports the digitization of patient records, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive and organized system for medical information. As AI continues to expand, there is a growing necessity to revise existing laws to accommodate concepts like open health, ensuring seamless digital integration of healthcare ecosystems.

While Brazil has made strides in embracing digital technologies, there remains the challenge of expanding internet access. Approximately 16 percent of Brazilian households, representing around 34 million people, still lack internet access. Initiatives, such as providing resources through the Telecommunications Services Universalization Fund, aim to bridge this gap and enable more individuals to benefit from digital resources, especially in healthcare.

The rise of technology, including AI, has also brought challenges like cybercrime. Brazil is addressing these concerns through laws like the General Data Protection Law (LGPD), which gained additional topics in 2023, including the regulation of administrative penalties.

Looking ahead to 2024, the Brazilian Senate plans to engage in a debate to regulate the use of AI in the country. This includes addressing concerns related to the use of AI in healthcare, such as risk classifications that could hinder its progress. Ethical discussions surrounding human rights, bias, copyright, labor rights, job cuts, and sensitive data are expected to be at the forefront of these debates.

As Brazil navigates the dynamic landscape of AI in healthcare, the pillars of responsibility, transparency, and trust will be crucial. Striking a balance between cost considerations, technological advancements, and effective regulation will be an ongoing task in the coming year, marking 2024 as a pivotal time for in-depth discussions and progress in this transformative field.



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