Health Advice



Researchers say AI could help reduce disparities, improve access in health care

Angela Roberts, Baltimore Sun on

Published in Health & Fitness

BALTIMORE — Cervical cancer, like many illnesses, is treatable if it’s caught early, but each year millions of women miss out on getting routine Pap smear screening for the disease, which kills a disproportionate number of Black women.

During the pandemic, cervical cancer screening rates got even worse, especially for lower-income women and women of racial and ethnic minority groups.

A group of recent graduates from Johns Hopkins Carey Business School think a solution to this problem could be rooted in artificial intelligence. For a class they took last fall, they developed a concept for a “smart tampon,” an at-home cervical test they hope would make screening for the disease more accessible and ultimately decrease disparities.

They’re not the only ones who have high hopes for the role artificial intelligence and machine learning technology will play in the future of health care.

A growing number of researchers in Maryland and across the country see the technology as something that will change the way patients are treated, making it possible to diagnose them earlier and with more accuracy, and better spot signs that they may be at risk for developing an illness or condition.

Just in the past few months, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland have started centers to further incorporate artificial intelligence into medicine.


Beyond health care, the market for artificial intelligence technology is booming, reaching into environments as diverse as the courtroom and the classroom. By 2030, the market is expected to be valued at well over $1 trillion, according to market researchers.

But a cloud of worry has followed the technology’s growing prominence.

Just like people, artificial intelligence algorithms — and the large data sets they rely upon — can be biased. If used irresponsibly, the technology can reinforce ways that systems already discriminate against marginalized groups, and possibly worsen them.

But in medicine, some researchers believe that if the technology is advanced thoughtfully — and physicians are educated about its limitations — it could make health care more affordable and accessible, while mitigating disparities.


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