April 14, 2020

Artificial Intelligence in Primary Care Could Have Helped My Father to Avoid Type 2 Diabetes

Shail Choksi

Artificial Intelligence in Primary Care Could Have Helped My Father to Avoid Type 2 Diabetes

“When I sleep, my eyes are closed at night, my mind is still awake. Thoughts of my past do shatter my present but then the strength of my soul moves me forward”- Shail Saurabh Choksi

The words on this page tell a story that is very close to my heart. I’m going to talk about my father, and talking about him triggers some heavy thoughts and emotions. We’ll get through it. In his late forties, my father had a heart attack. I was 21 years old. A kid. A kid who had never experienced traumatic life events, who panicked at the thought of his father in danger, with no idea how to act, who to call, or what to do. We rushed him to the hospital, doctors acted swiftly, and my father’s life was saved. Moments like that are hard to forget, though, and I still think about it often. I’ll save you the melodrama.

After the chaos wound down and my father was stable, I pulled one of the doctors aside.

“What happened? Why did my dad have a heart attack?”​ I asked the man.

“Your father has diabetes. The longer your history with diabetes, the more vulnerable you become to other health complications, like heart attacks,”​ he responded. ​“He must do a better job of managing his health in the future.”

I decided then and there that I would dedicate my career to helping others in the medical field — I wanted to save lives the way that man had saved my father. At first, I considered being a doctor. Someone with calm nerves and steady hands — a powerful force for the common good. Reality quickly set in, being a below-average student, who probably get negative marking if there was any, couldn’t become a doctor. when I realized I wasn’t a strong enough student to withstand the challenges of medical school and residency. Instead, I got an opportunity to work and study data and analytics. Sixteen years have passed since my father’s heart attack, and I’m now a Data Analytics Consultant, specializing in healthcare.

Since immersing myself in this career field, I’ve developed a strong aptitude for Artificial Intelligence. I understand its strengths, weaknesses, and applications. In the medical field, those applications are powerful. Think about my dad as an example: had I been a doctor, I could have taken emergency action in response to his heart attack, the way his doctor did. I may have even cleaned up his diet and sleep patterns, preventing his heart attack altogether. But if the healthcare system had Artificial Intelligence when he was younger?

It could have prevented diabetes completely.

Before talking about AI, we should focus on why my father — and those like him — get diabetes in the first place. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that says “my body isn’t able to regulate insulin levels very well,” where insulin is a hormone that regulates how sugar moves into your cells. Hereditary factors like your family medical history, your ethnicity, and the place you grew up will make you more or less predisposed to the disease. Lifestyle factors like the food you eat, the quality of your sleep, and how often you exercise either contribute to its development or keep the disease at bay.

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