CSIRO says healthcare sector an AI winner

Australia’s healthcare system will be one of the winners from the AI revolution but there will be growing challenges around data security and privacy, the national science and research agency CSIRO says.

Dr David Hansen: monitoring guidelines imperative

A new report released by CSIRO last week confirms an explosion in the use of AI across the healthcare sector, from clinical decision-making to routine administrative tasks. 

This comes alongside a rapid expansion in the digitalisation of Australia’s electronic medical records (EMRs), CSIRO notes, which will likely provide the platform for implementing AI across imaging, diagnosis, treatment decisions, report reconciliation and analysis of clinical data.

CSIRO published its first AI report in 2020, which saw the global Covid-19 pandemic usher in a new era in digital health.

Since then, the use of AI has increased, and new techniques are being incorporated into many areas.

The report identifies four key trends in digital health, including:

  • interoperability of data between systems
  • cloud computing
  • apps and personalisation
  • data analytics as a service

‘An extradoardinary era in medicine’

The CSIRO report paints an optimistic picture of AI-driven health care across a range of areas including disease control, aged care and disability support, medical imaging, sensors and wearables, population health, therapy and rehabilitation and genomic data.

“From diagnostic imaging to unlocking the genetic secrets of … disease, healthcare is a winner when it comes to artificial intelligence,” the agency says.

CSIRO’s Australian e-Health Research Centre (AEHRC) Research Director David Hansen says the nation is at the cusp of an extraordinary era in medicine.

“For the first time, machines can provide efficient administrative support for clinicians and education for patients, diagnose and predict disease and inform clinical decision making,” he said.

Dr Hansen says AI also has the potential to ‘drastically improve’ the working lives of medical professionals, while boosting patient access to and control over their health data.

The report canvases a number of opportunities, from reducing the risk of medial professional burnout to providing personalised healthcare or using chatbots to help smokers quit.

However, Dr Hansen warns AI technology must by embedded in healthcare carefully and safely and must be properly regulated, because the accuracy of models can mean the difference between life or death, or ongoing health or illness. 

“There is more health and medical data out there than ever before, so data privacy and security are a growing challenge,” he said.

“As we strive to create newer and better digital tools to harness the benefits of AI in healthcare, frameworks and ethical implementation along with established safety, quality and monitoring guidelines continue to be imperative.”

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