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Do humans have a place in pharma’s AI future?

Like many aspects of healthcare, technological advances are of little use if they don’t serve a practical purpose in patient care. Now, AI is beginning to play an important role in bringing the information gleaned from large datasets into patients’ lives, said Dr. Bobby Green, chief medical officer and co-founder of Thyme Care, a private company focused on helping patients navigate the cancer care landscape.

“I am a lot more optimistic and excited about AI today than I was a year ago,” Green said. “Prioritizing patients is No. 1, specifically around thinking about protocols and interventions — there is going to be a place for that.”

Green, who has a background in data research at the curation company Flatiron Health, said it’s about building “playbooks” for physicians and other caregivers to follow when applying that knowledge to a particular patient.

For example, if a patient has been prescribed a steroid for multiple myeloma, but that patient also has diabetes, the data from thousands of patients would tell the doctor how they should be monitoring blood sugar as a result of that treatment. But then there are the secondary parts of a patient’s life, like transportation difficulties, food insecurity, language comprehension or other factors that could affect how a physician needs to guide treatment. AI can distill that information for caregivers to follow, Green said.

“There are huge opportunities to summarize lots of information and lots of data and present that in a quick and easy way for nurses and the team [of care providers] to understand it,” Green said. “At a high level, it’s always good to empower our care team, but at the same time, it’s not going to replace them.”

Despite the promise of AI to help healthcare professionals and pharma companies get better at determining what’s right for the patients, there will always need to be a human component, Green said.

“AI is a part of that as a way to make people more efficient and better at what they do,” Green said. “But underlying that is the nuance around people.”


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