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Moira Mackenzie


3rd December 2020


AI for social good needs to be co-designed

Artificial Intelligence (AI) could contribute to a healthier future if we engage skilled care practitioners in its design and development.

The majority of Scottish health and care workers remain passionately committed to providing the ‘right care to the right person at the right time’, however truly personalised care remains elusive within a system facing unsustainable pressure, too many people still experience ‘conveyor-belt’ type services as demand increases.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) could contribute to a healthier future if we engage skilled care practitioners in its design and development.


  • Creates potential for new person-centred health and care models embedded in communities
  • Puts more decision-making power in the hands of citizens, making them the primary source of data and insights about their health and wellbeing
  • Supports personalised public health, drawing upon data from health and wider sources to enable people to maintain health, wellbeing and prevent illness
  • Has the capability to generate insights across real-world data from health, social care, education, and citizen-generated data to create new opportunities for integrated health and care

Lots of data and information exist within health and care but there is an ongoing need to convert this into insight, knowledge, and action. AI enables us to enrich traditional approaches by combining data gathered for research purposes with real-world data, generated from services and citizens. However, we need to ensure sourced data is fit for purpose.

AI and enhanced computing capabilities could support decision-making and early intervention by recognising patterns and interpreting insights from complex information. However, for results to make sense and enable us to act, additional data sources are required, and we need to combine the different strengths of AI and humans. AI is not a panacea to resolve all our data challenges and we need to understand its’ strengths but also its weaknesses to ensure it can add real value. Ethical and regulatory guidance on use of AI in healthcare practice is still emergent, presenting us with the challenge and opportunity of leading the way in using AI for good in improving people’s health and wellbeing.

Scotland already has exciting AI-enabled collaborations involving industry, academia, and care practitioners. These projects enable us to better understand the relationship between treatment and social determinants of health and include the further development of machine learning from images captured by the colon capsule pill (SCOTCAP) to aid diagnosis and support the national redesign of outpatient gastroenterology services; the UKRI funded iCAIRD project which is initially exploring clinical decision marking in breast cancer screening; the Right Decision Platform which is using information and AI to support decision making by frontline health and care staff, and enable self-management.

The development of AI enabled services shines an uncomfortable spotlight on areas of bias, stereotyping and prejudices that continue to be a negative aspect of human behaviour. To avoid bias being exponentially magnified by AI, trusted, safe and ethical solutions need developed and approaches to generating and collating real-world data need to be reviewed. This requires co-design and collaborative methodologies involving care practitioners and citizens with lived experience to harness the power of AI for social good.

This blog piece was first published in the Powering Good - Insights from Nesta’s AI for Good programme report on 03 December 2020.

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