Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare: Separating the Hype from Reality

Over the last few years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has gained momentum as a tool organisations can use to drive efficiency, reduce operational costs and improve customer experience.

Spurred on by the digital revolution, the private sector has been quick to begin develop and roll-out AI initiatives to transform their business models. According a recent report by Global IT firm Infosys, nine out of 10 leaders in large Australian businesses have deployed AI technologies within their organisation in some form.

And the Australian healthcare sector is following suit. While it may be early days, forward-looking healthcare organisations have already begun to adopt AI interfaces to improve services and efficiency.

The most obvious and immediate beneficial opportunities AI can provide to healthcare are those where AI can reduce administrative burdens, help resolve resource allocation problems and take on complex tasks. What’s more, AI applications have the potential to free-up time for employees to build better relationships with citizens and ultimately revolutionise service delivery.

Gold Coast Health is one example of a Government-owned organisation that is leveraging AI capabilities to transform services. Gold Coast Health is part of IntelliHQ, a non-for-profit organisation that promotes AI in healthcare through collaboration with Government, researchers, universities, private sector and start-ups.

Below,  Dr. Brent Richards, Medical Director of Innovation at Gold Coast Health explores how Government organisations can partner with researchers, start-ups and businesses to build AI capabilities and the lessons learned from Gold Coast Health’s AI journey to date.

Developing partnerships with other sectors to improve AI capabilities

 “At Gold Coast Health, we are researching and reviewing what other organisations are doing – both inside and outside the Government sector – to understand successes they have had in AI and the capabilities they have developed to drive results.

It is really important that we review how other sectors are applying AI, because the return on investment in healthcare is most likely going to be greater than other industries. Our aim is to look how we can harness these technologies in a healthcare setting.

Our organisation has developed a partnership with IntelliHQ, a non-for-profit aimed at improving AI in healthcare. This has provided us with a lot of partnership opportunities with other sectors.

In the world of AI there is no one organisation across any sector that is in the later development stages of AI deployment. Everyone has a different approach and everyone has a different experience. It is therefore important that we partner with as many providers as possible to explore this relatively new space. There are different bits and pieces of ability in different groups and companies, but no one has come close to providing an entire solution. AI is a rapidly moving field so it is important to collaborate as much as possible to stay ahead of change.”

Tools to identify opportunities AI can provide

“I have been part of Gold Coast Health for a long time so there are areas of opportunity I can see in my own right based on my experience working as a clinician and also as an executive over the years. 

When setting up an organisation for AI, it is important to talk to people – both customers and employees – to find out what their pain-points are and what we can improve.

Based on our experience, we have found there are some pain-points we can definitely use AI to improve. But we have also found that for most people-related challenges, sometimes people have stopped looking for solutions to their problems because these issues have never been addressed. As such, this can result in a resistance to new change.

The challenge is the lack of understanding internally of what AI can actually do. It is important to look past the ‘here and now problems’ that are being floated around and look at the next steps, which is where the opportunities lie for AI to have an impact.”

Educating the workforce about the value of AI

“Internally, I am having conversations with as many people as I can to promote the value of AI. This helps to build a cascade effect: as you try to find people who are interested in the field, you can then work with them and up-skill them in the space to try and bring resources to fruition.

The AI mountain is pretty high to climb. It is one thing for people to understand the benefits and another to actually apply it. Bringing AI into the workplace, particularly in Government or Healthcare, is a very big step for most people.  Many people struggle with the concept of AI, let alone what it can do. Up-skilling is also an important part of this to help get the word out about the possible benefits  AI can provide.”

Overcoming challenges along the way

“The biggest challenge when it comes to developing AI in a Healthcare or Government context is to get people to recognise and understand the capabilities of the technology. You have to work on getting people to come on the journey with you. It’s about getting the balance right between not providing too much concern around change and recognising that people are going to want a lot more once you get started.

AI technology is no different to any other technology. When you introduce a new technology into any organisation there are always going to be leaders and laggards in the space. There needs to be a change management agenda. This is another piece of the tool-kit because dealing with change is the biggest part of the AI journey.”

How AI is set to revolutionise healthcare in the future

“In the future I think AI is going to improve both patient services and internal systems. From a patient perspective, AI will improve personalisation and precision and healthcare itself will become more engaging. AI will allow us to extract the finer details and we will know more about patients on an individual level. Bigger data-sets will mean more individualisation of care, which is becoming increasingly difficult in a complex environment.

AI will also drive significant gains in productivity. Healthcare across the board simply needs to improve its productivity. We can’t keep going the way we are going. AI will drive not only clinical productivity but also back-office productivity, which will make the overall healthcare system more efficient. 

This means there will be more money available to provide care to patients because a lot of the nuts and bolts in the back-end will be managed more efficiently.”

AI in healthcare is just one of the many topics set to be explored at Australian Healthcare Week 2019. For more information about the 2019 program or to request information about pricing and tickets please email us at info@austhealthweek.com.au

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