Uniting a love of math and medicine

Aug 15, 2022 | Kanaaz Pereira, Connect Moderator | @kanaazpereira

Hongfang Liu, Ph.D., the Richard Emslander Professor of Biomedical Informatics at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, has a full plate. She specializes in applications of artificial intelligence (AI) in medical science and health care — an area of research that's booming at Mayo Clinic and around the world.

Dr. Liu is the director of Biomedical Informatics at Mayo Clinic's Center for Clinical and Translational Science. She also was recently named enterprise co-lead of Cancer Informatics and Data Science in the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"Mayo Clinic has a long track record of leading technology innovations in health care," says Dr. Liu. "With significant investment in enterprise platforms and convergence of clinical systems in the past decade, Mayo is positioned to lead the patient-centered and data-driven health care revolution.


Unlocking rich data in electronic health records

Dr. Liu's research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 2003. Her work focuses on applications of AI and natural language processing. She uses these tools to unlock the rich data contained in clinical narratives, such as physician notes, in electronic health records.

Natural language processing is a branch of AI that makes it possible for computers to understand and analyze written or spoken language — what's known as natural language. Once clinical narratives are made computable, the information contained in them can more readily be used to advance research and improve patient care and health care delivery.

"There is enormous potential for scientific discoveries leading to life-changing cures for patients in this area of research," says Dr. Liu.

Innovating to improve health equity

A common thread throughout Dr. Liu's research is using biomedical informatics and AI to reduce health disparities and improve health equity.

Public health experts have raised concerns that the use of informatics and AI in research and medicine could lead to digital innovations that exacerbate bias and existing health disparities. However, Dr. Liu also sees the potential for these disciplines to improve health equity.

n recent years, Dr. Liu's research has explored rural-urban disparities in the use of patient online services for COVID-19using AI to assess clinician adherence to asthma guidelines, and analyzing sex differences in adverse drug events.

"The future of health care highly depends on the discovery, translation, implementation, and dissemination of AI and digital innovations that can deliver clinical excellence and better health for everyone," says Dr. Liu.

Excerpted from original article in Advancing the Science

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