Digital human research released as a public asset

At a time when the world is shutting down, one healthcare trailblazer is opening up for the sake of humanity.

Marie Johnson, managing director of the Centre for Digital Business, has been a leader in the complex field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and digital humans for more many years.

Now, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, she is giving away her research for free.

In a recent post on LinkedIn, Ms Johnson said with her family’s lived experience of cardiovascular disease, the time had come to see her years of work take flight.

“Cardiovascular disease and COVID-19 are both pandemics and these two pandemics are colliding,” she wrote.

“I have been writing and presenting for many years now on how digital disruption in healthcare is really the first Humanitarian Revolution, not the fourth Industrial Revolution.

“In that spirit, I will be holding a webinar in the coming weeks to make what I have researched, developed, written and presented on AI digital health and digital humans a public asset.

“Wicked problems won’t be solved if people lock up their good ideas for a rainy day.”

Ms Johnson is the co-creator of “Nadia”, the world’s first AI powered digital human for service delivery for people with a disability.

Her latest work is the AI powered Digital Human Cardiac Coach, “Hanna”, developed in response to her husband’s journey as a cardiac patient.

Speaking to PH News, Ms Johnson said the world was at a critical point.

“The only way our efforts are going to be accelerated is by opening up and democratising this knowledge,” she said.

“Allan and I always thought of this work as a humanitarian initiative, and we decided that with so much on lockdown right now and we wanted to do the opposite and open up this knowledge and accelerate the adoption of it.

“We’ve had a lot of interest globally, and we hope this accelerates the adoption of this knowledge and the implementation of it.”

The information will be available via a webinar being planned for sometime in May.

“All the materials, documents, research, templates, methods and explanations will be freely available,” Ms Johnson said.

“Importantly, this approach is technology agnostic -it will be up to the individual organisations to apply it as they see fit.”

Ms Johnson added she hoped the research would be applied to other health issues around the globe, particularly as medical services were forced to shut down due to the coronavirus.

“The isolation required for dealing with COVID-19 is certainly understandable – you have to think about health workers and for example cardiac patients, there’s an added risk of infection if they are going into hospitals,” she said.

“However, for cardiac patients and indeed for other people including cancer patients or those dealing with mental health issues, they aren’t being supported in the way they need.

“Cardiac rehab places are closed at the moment. There’s evidence that cardiac rehab in normal times is not being accessed at the level it needs to be, and that can lead to poor outcomes.

“So there’s a real fear among people with these underlying conditions, of not only catching COVID-19, but of not being supported with their current conditions.

“But hopefully, with this knowledge being out there, organisations may be able to apply it to other areas, like oncology and people will be able to access it in a way that’s currently not possible.”

One of the most critical aspects of developing digital humans is “co-design”. This means the digital human can relate to a patient on a very local level, right down to the type of foods available where the patient lives.

“Co-design is always something that has been so important to us,” Ms Johnson said.

“This AI can be localised to suit different cultures and that’s going to be empowering for communities.

“Our hope is that by exposing this work to others, they will take it and make it better.”

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