Healthcare systems in Australia are facing immense challenges from growing demand due to population growth, aging populations and chronic diseases, leading to longer wait times, overcrowding and resource shortages. Rising healthcare costs and workforce shortages worsen the situation.
Addressing these issues in a sustainable way requires innovative solutions. Artificial intelligence (AI) presents an opportunity to help improve diagnostic accuracy, enhance efficiency and productivity and provide more personalised medicine.
Addressing the risks
AI has the capacity to quickly and accurately analyse large amounts of data, identify patterns and improve workflow efficiencies. This allows healthcare professionals to focus exclusively on delivering high-quality care for their patients.
Nevertheless, there are challenges in ensuring that regulation, operational processes and trust in the technology can keep pace with the rapid growth in this area.
Firstly, AI relies heavily on high-quality data for decision-making. Ensuring data accuracy and privacy – while maintaining compliance with regulations – can be challenging. The use of AI in healthcare raises ethical concerns regarding patient privacy, consent, algorithm bias and liability.
Establishing robust ethical guidelines and regulatory frameworks is essential to address these concerns and ensure responsible AI adoption.
Secondly, integrating AI technology with existing healthcare systems and infrastructure can be complex and time-consuming. Compatibility issues, data interoperability and the need for extensive customisation can pose challenges during implementation.
Thirdly, building trust and acceptance among healthcare professionals, patients and the broader community is crucial. Ensuring transparency, understanding and demonstrating the value and benefits of AI technology are essential to gaining widespread adoption and acceptance.
AI for patients and clinicians
Gold Coast Health is currently working in collaboration with a range of partners to develop and test AI innovations to support high-quality and efficient care for our patients. For instance, we are working to implement a non-invasive AI device to monitor, detect and alert health professionals to patient falls and other unusual behaviours to enable quicker response and interventions.
We are also developing an AI-powered virtual assistant to provide personalised support and guidance to patients. The assistant leverages existing digital platforms, natural language processing and machine learning algorithms to deliver healthcare-related information to patients, understand their needs and provide tailored recommendations or assistance.
We are also trialling the feasibility of clinical decision support systems for a range of clinical functions, including recommending diagnostic and treatment options, and predicting the risk of deterioration.
AI tools can further assist clinicians by providing real-time, evidence-based recommendations, helping them make more informed decisions. This can lead to more accurate diagnoses, appropriate treatment plans and improved patient safety.
AI algorithms can also analyse medical images such as X-rays, CT scans and MRIs to assist radiologists in detecting and diagnosing conditions like tumours, fractures and other anomalies. AI can help improve accuracy, speed up the interpretation process and identify subtle patterns that may be challenging for human eyes to spot.
Robotic surgery can also benefit from AI to assist surgeons during procedures. AI algorithms can analyse real-time data from the surgical site, providing guidance and enhancing precision, which in turn minimises risks and improves patient outcomes.
Better patient care
With precision medicine, AI technologies can generate personalised treatment plans and interventions by analysing individual patient data, including medical records, genetic information and lifestyle factors. This ensures that patients receive tailored care based on their specific needs, leading to improved treatment outcomes and patient satisfaction.
AI can also improve patient monitoring by continuously scanning individual clinical indicators to detect and alert healthcare providers to early signs of deterioration or abnormalities – allowing timely intervention.
The technology also enables remote monitoring of patients, virtual consultations and remote diagnostics – particularly beneficial for patients in rural or remote areas who have limited access to healthcare services.
Improving the healthcare system
AI can help healthcare systems optimise resource allocation, patient flow and overall operations. Predictive analytics can forecast patient demand, improve bed management, optimise scheduling and support supply chain management. This enables healthcare systems to allocate resources efficiently, reduce costs and enhance patient satisfaction.
Virtual assistants and chatbots can provide on-demand support to patients and healthcare staff. These AI systems can answer common questions, provide basic health information, schedule appointments and even offer triage support by assessing symptoms and suggesting appropriate care pathways.
The adoption of AI technology in healthcare offers immense promise. However, it is essential to also address the challenges and ensure responsible and ethical deployment of AI to maximise its benefits while mitigating risks.
Collaboration between healthcare professionals, policymakers, technology experts and patients is vital to ensure the responsible and equitable adoption of AI health technologies and maximise their potential for transforming healthcare.