Participatory health and AI may help each other advance around the world

If AI is to find a foothold across the worldwide healthcare ecosystem, it will need to rest on research into how it may affect the emerging realm of participatory medicine.

That’s according to a study conducted by a working group focused on social media and participatory health organized by the International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA). The group published its findings online April 25 in IMIA’s Yearbook of Medical Informatics.

Lead author Kerstin Denecke of Bern University in Switzerland and colleagues searched the literature on participatory health—in which informed patients actively partner with providers—as archived in PubMed and six other journal databases. They also collected and analyzed clinical trials involving AI in the context of participatory medicine as registered at

After whittling the crop to 22 articles and 12 trials, the team found the most common application of AI in participatory health was the secondary analysis of social media data.

This they defined as self-reported data such as patient experiences with healthcare facilities, reports of adverse drug reactions, safety and efficacy concerns about over-the-counter medications and other perspectives on medications.

They further found AI is being concertedly applied to such discrete participatory-health activities as identifying users who are likely to drop out from an online discussion forum, extracting terms used in such forums to expand an AI system’s vocabulary and paraphrasing technical and medical terms for healthcare consumers.

In their discussion, Denecke et al. suggested the introduction of AI technologies within participatory health will broaden access to healthcare services, information and views from fellow healthcare consumers.

“Some of the immediate research challenges to be considered are where AI for participatory health best fits within the global healthcare spectrum in relation to preventive health, home care, primary care, secondary and tertiary care,” the authors commented. “In particular, the focus should perhaps be put on developed nations that have a larger proportion of elderly individuals, versus developing countries with a larger proportion of young adults and adolescents.”

The study is available in full for free.