AI

How AI is levelling the playing field when it comes to gender and healthcare

Charles Taylor | December 21, 2021

AI and Healthcare

Global efforts to tackle gender inequality have grown in recent years. But there is still so much to be done. Figures from the United Nations show that outcomes for women and girls continue to lag across a range of issues, including poverty, education, work and health. And according to the World Economic Forum, at the current rate, it will take 108 years to close the gender gap.

Although healthcare is founded in objectivity and science, gender bias is still remarkably common. We wanted to understand more about female perceptions of healthcare, so we undertook consumer research that delved into the experiences of women compared to men. The results pointed to a clear disparity, finding that women are less likely to visit the doctor when they have symptoms of ill health and, in some cases, are taken less seriously when they do seek medical advice. 

Women being left behind

According to our research, a significant proportion of British women feel disappointed in the healthcare they receive, with one in five reporting they weren’t taken seriously when presenting symptoms to a healthcare provider. What’s more, a staggering one in four said they are reluctant to seek medical advice at all for fear of wasting a GP’s time. These statistics suggest that, not only are female experiences of healthcare damaging their relationship with clinicians, but they could be eroding confidence in recognising and acting on warning signs and symptoms too.  

This sentiment is particularly evident when focusing on cardiac care. One in eight women (13%) feel ignored when presenting symptoms of heart disease to healthcare professionals, compared to just 4% of men. And of UK adults who have received a coronary heart disease (CHD) diagnosis, women experiencing symptoms were 55% more likely than men to visit the doctor multiple times before receiving a referral for further investigation. On top of this, women are five times more likely to receive a false finding from the cardiac stress tests that are traditionally used to assess heart health.

“There does appear to be a gender bias in onward referral to secondary care and for diagnostics in the local area, which is influenced by the attending healthcare professionals’ risk assessment. Traditional teaching has led to gender bias, as we are programmed to attribute a lower level of pre-test probability and risk to females. This may have contributed to a general lack of awareness around cardiovascular health in women. For example, in a survey I carried out among more than 600 female employees working within North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust, 82% said they didn’t feel informed about their cardiovascular health. Considering participants included some of the most medically informed women in the UK, the results speak volumes about how we view cardiac health among women.” 

- Dr Rebecca Schofield, consultant cardiologist at North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust

These widespread misconceptions around heart disease and heart attacks are often exacerbated by what we see in the media – think of the countless TV stereotypes of male characters clutching their chests and falling to the floor. 

But given that CHD is responsible for one in 13 female deaths, it appears that public health efforts have failed to make people aware of the risks for women. It is, perhaps, not surprising then that 42% of women with CHD did not immediately recognise their symptoms as signs of heart disease. In short, women are missing out on time-critical diagnoses and treatment due to a lack of awareness and education among both healthcare providers and the public.

Technologies making a difference

Thankfully, progress is being made to improve healthcare outcomes for women. Innovative technologies are increasingly providing diagnostic solutions that can reduce incidences of human bias and give clinicians greater clarity on the presence or severity of different conditions in their female patients.

For example, AI is already being used to detect diseases such as cancer more accurately. Its adoption is facilitating reviews and translations of mammograms 30 times faster, with 99% accuracy, reducing the need for unnecessary biopsies.  

There’s extraordinary potential for AI and healthcare, and it’s something the NHS continues to recognise, most recently with the launch of its Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (AI Lab) and NHS England’s (NHSE) MedTech Funding Mandate. The latter aims to accelerate the uptake of selected innovative medical devices, diagnostics, and digital products to patients.

As part of the NHS efforts, NHSE has mandated the HeartFlow Analysis for use in hospitals across England for patients, male or female, who might otherwise be sent for a cardiac stress test. The HeartFlow Analysis is a gender-neutral technology that takes data from a coronary CT scan of the heart and leverages deep learning (a form of AI) and highly trained analysts to create a personalised, digital 3D model of each patient’s coronary arteries. This then helps clinicians to quickly diagnose CHD and decide the appropriate treatment for patients of any gender. Time spent in hospital is minimised for patients and often layered testing and unnecessary invasive diagnostic procedures can be avoided.

Final thoughts

While AI is helping us tackle gender bias in certain areas such as oncologic and cardiac testing, healthcare professionals are not absolved of responsibility when it comes to confronting this problem.  It remains incumbent upon clinicians to recognise unconscious bias that would deter them from referring women or minority patients for much-needed testing.

Outside of the hospital, public health education efforts must expand so that far more of us can recognise shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, back or jaw pain, and other symptoms beyond chest pain to be indicators of a heart attack in a woman. Knowing what to look for and overcoming personal bias that might lead to these signs being disregarded, may allow us to help one of the more than 100 women who will experience a heart attack in the UK today.

Spotlight

Teladoc Health

Teladoc Health is the global virtual care leader, offering the only comprehensive virtual care solution spanning telehealth, expert medical, and licensed platform services. Through our award-winning consumer experience brands – Advance Medical, Best Doctors, BetterHelp, HealthiestYou, and Teladoc – we help millions of people around the world resolve their healthcare needs with confidence.

OTHER ARTICLES
HEALTH TECHNOLOGY

Wearable Technology is the New Healthcare!

Article | May 18, 2022

Do you know you can now wear technology? With the help of wearable technology, it's now easier to keep track of useful information in one go! This go-to technology has made people’s lives easier and smoother health-wise. In the last five years, more people have started using wearable technology to monitor health data and live healthier lifestyles. According to the Deloitte Global Survey, today, more than 80% of people are interested in using wearable technology. Statista also studied that the ear-worn wearable technology market will be worth more than 44.16 billion US dollars by 2023. These data show that customers are gravitating toward wearable technology due to its simplicity and convenience. The Tech is Getting Smarter Wearable technology has enabled the concept of self-checking, evaluation and monitoring of certain health conditions. The Internet of Things (IoT) technology is transforming and improving the entire lifestyles of millions of people. So it's no surprise that the technology is spreading. Thanks to IoT and AI, which have pushed these technologies into individuals’ hands in the form of smartwatches, fitness bands, and other devices. In this case, app development has also been a critical success factor. Consumers of all age groups actively use wearable technology for multiple physical benefits, such as monitoring daily activities (running, walking), water intake, heartbeat, sleep cycles, blood pressure, oxygen level, and mobility levels. In fact, the tech helps them to stay motivated by maintaining and extending their good habits. Wearables can measure these characteristics through an effective data model that is instantly responsive. The readings can be saved, displayed, or forwarded to a doctor for medical study. This interface of wearable technology saves money and time traveling to clinics, hospitals, GPs, and other medical facilities. The next feature that only wearable technology provides is reminders and inspiring information! Due to the addition of automatic functionalities, users have invested considerably in wearables and sparked the usage at the current time. Furthermore, wearable technology is also seen in other medical devices such as ECG monitors, which is again a cutting-edge consumer electronic device that users can use to measure electrocardiograms at home. A Deloitte study found that due to the rising demand and supply together, nearly 200 million wearable gadgets will be marketed globally by 2023. Transforming Healthcare Towards Intelligence The pandemic accentuated the importance of wearable technology the most, particularly for health monitoring. As a result, the technology was available in every second home. Wearable innovation is exceptional with the advancements in sensors, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and algorithms. Sensor data provides insights regarding an individual's activity levels, cardiac pattern discrepancies, and other aspects. For example, many companies and manufacturers employ PPG, Raman spectroscopy and infrared spectrophotometers to enable blood pressure monitoring features in smartwatches and portable medical devices. The combination of technology with intelligence is creating a whole new world of healthcare where individuals can track, record, and improve their health issues in a lesser timeframe. A Committed Future of Healthcare So, will technology for health improvement thrive? The answer is yes. Wearable technology delivers real-time health data and allows consumers to improve their health without incurring high costs. Consumers' willingness to share their data with healthcare professionals indicates a surge in future demand for wearable technology gadgets.

Read More
HEALTHCARE ANALYTICS

Importance of Mental Health for Sustainable Development

Article | May 11, 2022

Mental illness is a fatal illness. Surprisingly, mental health is grossly underfunded all over the world. Despite countries' economic strength, there are still no long-term and solution-driven results for addressing mental health. According to WHO reports, only one in every fifty people receives medical treatment for severe mental illnesses. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a global initiative to create a more equitable and sustainable world. According to the World Health Organization, "there can be no health or sustainable development without proper mental health." As a result, mental health is one of the most critical pillars in creating a sustainable world in the future. In short, if mental health is good, sustainability will follow naturally. Positive Mental Health = Thriving Sustainability According to the WHO’s decision-making body, ‘The World Health Assembly (WHA),’ mental health deserves to be at the top of the sustainability agenda because it affects people of all ages. It means anybody can be diagnosed with a mental illness, which is directly proportionate to sustainable development. So, a similar amount of treatments, diagnoses, and awareness should help people overcome mental illness. However, on the other hand, according to the WHO's 2020 Mental Health Atlas, only 23% of patients with mental illnesses have been integrated into healthcare systems in developing countries. This highlights the undeniable fact that the world's 280 million people suffering from depression have been kept away from receiving a proper diagnosis, treatment, and care. Moreover, up to 85% of people with mental illnesses are untreated. The numbers are shocking! Such statistics are enough evidence to create a supportive culture free of the stigma that mental illness is incurable and encourage patients to seek help when they need it. It includes geography-specific mental health resources, proper diagnosis, care, medication, availability, accessibility, other requirements, and adequate support systems. Global Action is Key to Both Providers of mental health services cannot do it alone. Instead, it requires a strong global response. In this case, leading companies and legislative bodies should exert influence to promote cost-effective, widely accessible, and evidence-based treatments for mental health disorders. Some low-cost solutions to this global problem will eradicate it and bring about long-term development to support this point. As a result, the solutions are as follows Improving social and economic environments as part of sustainable development Integrating mental health into general primary health care Providing appropriate care and treatment through trained and supervised community members Using technology to introduce the most up-to-date solutions for mental health disorders Wrapping Up Transformation is essential today, both technically and in terms of humanizing. Otherwise, sustainable development will be impossible to achieve unless the enormous challenge of mental health is addressed. Therefore, healthcare leaders will need to develop transitional plans to increase coverage in real-time to accomplish this. This should include proper diagnosis and progressive tracking of mental health treatments.

Read More

3 Key Considerations in Cloud Security for Healthcare Organizations

Article | February 12, 2020

With medical system consolidation and increasing numbers of medical records created, the need for digital access and storage is gaining steam. Digitizing records allows clinicians to improve accuracy and decrease redundant testing and studies, as well as reduce treatment delays. Greater availability of digitized records has other perks too. With vast amounts of accessible medical data, researchers can move public health studies forward, also potentially improving care and treatment of individual patients. As a result, cloud storage is taking off, though healthcare organizations are adopting it more slowly than other industries. According to a 2019 Nutanix report, 71% of healthcare organizations using cloud were considered the least mature – relative beginners – in that they were using fewer cloud services. Compare that figure to finance or retail, where 13% and 15% respectively were beginners. However, that is changing.

Read More

Advanced Healthcare Supply Chains: Why It’s All in the Data

Article | February 10, 2020

During the past decade, the healthcare industry has undergone an unprecedented technological transformation. The industry, once defined by manual processes, has moved squarely into the digital age. As patients, we’ve all become accustomed to seeing physicians as well as clinical staff use laptops during office visits. And behind the scenes, hospitals and health networks have made substantial investments in financial and HR systems, among others. One of the more significant digital advancements has been the industry’s focus on applying greater levels of automation to supply chain processes. In doing so, provider and supplier organizations have improved the efficiency of their supply chains, driven out millions of dollars in cost and waste, all while keeping patient care front and center.

Read More

Spotlight

Teladoc Health

Teladoc Health is the global virtual care leader, offering the only comprehensive virtual care solution spanning telehealth, expert medical, and licensed platform services. Through our award-winning consumer experience brands – Advance Medical, Best Doctors, BetterHelp, HealthiestYou, and Teladoc – we help millions of people around the world resolve their healthcare needs with confidence.

Events