The Korea Herald


Korea to invest W35.7b in developing homegrown medical AI system

‘Dr. Answer’ will guide diagnosis and treatment of 8 illnesses; launch planned by 2020

By Sohn Ji-young

Published : May 1, 2018 - 14:35

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The South Korean government plans to invest 35.7 billion won ($33.4 million) over the next three years to build a homegrown medical artificial intelligence system that analyzes patients’ medical data to offer personalized diagnostics and treatment plans.

The Ministry of Science and ICT held a ceremony in Seoul on Monday to formally mark the beginning of efforts to develop the Korean medical AI system dubbed “Dr. Answer,” which uses medical big data to guide doctors in their diagnosis and treatment planning, similar to IBM’s Watson.

Dr. Answer will be developed to specifically target eight maladies: breast cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, cerebrovascular disease, heart disease, epilepsy, dementia and pediatric rare refractory genetic disease.

(123RF) (123RF)

The ministry plans to carry out this medical artificial intelligence project over the course of three years, with aims to conclude it by 2020. This year, it plans to inject 5 billion won into the project. 

The state-run medical AI project will be led by Seoul’s Asan Medical Center and is to involve 25 local hospitals and medical institutions as well as 19 artificial intelligence tech software developers, including Vuno, JLK Inspection and Kakao Brain.

The project will involve three parts, starting with translating medical data including electronic medical records, medical images and genomic data into a format that can be used to systematically train AI systems.

The second step will be to develop a diagnostic and treatment guidance algorithm for the eight illnesses. The third will be developing integrated medical data visualization software that can be used for medical education, training and psychological rehabilitation.

The medical data will be provided by the local hospitals in line with the stipulations of each hospital’s institutional review board and after information that identifies the patient is removed, the ministry said.

Moreover, Dr. Answer will be combined with Korea’s cloud-based Precision Medical Hospital Information System, to provide working Korean-style precision medical services by 2019, it added.

Korea’s medical artificial intelligence development plans come as the country’s AI health care market is expected to grow by around 70.4 percent annually, from just 1.79 billion won in 2015 to 25.64 billion won in 2020, according to data provided by the ministry.

“Even if diagnosed with the same illness, patients can show differing symptoms depending on their health status, lifestyle habits and genomic differences,” said Asan Medical Institute’s Kim Jong-jae, who is heading the medical artificial intelligence initiative.

“With this project, we hope to find the solutions to Korea’s precision medicine initiatives and open up a new era of personalized medicine,” he said.

By Sohn Ji-young (