Two researchers from the University of Virginia (UVA), US, will look at ways to boost the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare for a wider diversity of patient populations.

The research will be supported by a new $5.9m National Institutes of Health grant.

The researchers will work with investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Florida, biomedical and clinical organisations, as well as US industry and regulatory agencies.

At several hospitals in the country, bedside monitors that measure a patient’s intracranial pressure to heart, respiration and blood pressure rates, feed numbers into AI systems.

The systems continuously evaluate their risk of suffering stroke, sepsis and heart attack.

However, as the algorithms feeding the predictive healthcare AI systems are usually based on data from homogenous populations, AI intended to boost care for everyone may occasionally not meet the requirements and may even prove detrimental.

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The two primary co-investigators, namely the School of Nursing associate professor Ishan Williams and UVA Health cardiologist Randall Moorman, will develop, test and deploy best practices for AI healthcare systems that gather data from a more diverse pool of patients by considering the race, ethnicity, socio-economic status and geography.

In a country that is marked by growing racial and ethnic diversity, this research is considered a priority for the NIH, which, via its ‘Bridge to AI’ programmes, has gathered a host of scholars with the task of improving AI.

Williams said: “If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that we must take a nuanced, inclusive, equitable approach to everything we do in healthcare, AI included.”

This study is expected to help in increasing AI’s effective role in the care of diverse patients.