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Australia to unveil AI healthcare policy roadmap to align with international standards

Health Industry Hub | November 16, 2023 |

Digital & Innovation: A significant stride towards the ethical and secure integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in the healthcare system is set to be unveiled at the upcoming AI.Care 2023 conference from November 22nd to 23rd.

Leading this landmark initiative is Professor Enrico Coiera, Director of the Centre for Health Informatics at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University. Professor Coiera, also the founder of the Australian Alliance for AI in Healthcare (AAAiH), will present the National Policy Roadmap for Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare outlining strategic recommendations to drive the nation’s policy agenda concerning AI in healthcare.

The roadmap, structured around five core priority areas, encompasses vital facets crucial for ensuring the responsible deployment of AI in healthcare settings. Emphasising AI safety, quality, ethics, and security, the plan is poised to shape the safe implementation of AI in healthcare. Additionally, it places a strong focus on developing the healthcare and AI workforce, ensuring health AI literacy among consumers, supporting industry growth, and steering research endeavours aligned with national interests.

Professor Coiera highlighted, “The idea you can just drop AI in like a silver bullet makes no sense – we need a carefully constructed journey. The AI opportunity is too big to ignore and too important not to get right. If we do it well, there will be huge benefits but if it is done poorly, people will be harmed.”

The AAAiH, a collaborative effort comprising over 100 member organisations representing industry, health service providers, academia, and consumer groups, developed this roadmap. Professor Coiera underscored the need for action, stressing that Australia must quickly adapt to AI’s potential in healthcare while mitigating associated risks to patient safety and privacy.

“Australia’s approach to AI in healthcare has been fragmented, but the plan would help safeguard Australia and bring us in line with comparable nations such as the US and UK that had made substantial progress in investment and adoption,” Professor Coiera remarked.

Despite some AI utilisation in Australian healthcare, a coordinated and comprehensive approach is necessary to harness its full potential.

“AI offers significant new possibilities for improving clinical diagnosis, treatment, and workflows,” he said. “It holds the potential to turn Australian healthcare into a learning system that is more agile, adaptive, personalised, safe, effective, and equitable, across research and development, into clinical settings and at home for patients and their families.”

He added “A previous roadmap released in 2021 had limited cut-through due to the pandemic, and an updated version was needed because of the rapid acceleration of AI innovation over the past two years, particularly with generative AI. It was imperative to ring the bell again and we had much wider consultation this time, including with organisations that will have owned governance of initiatives, industry and many government representatives.”

Co-founder of AAAiH, Professor Karin Verspoor, echoed these sentiments, emphasising the importance of developing robust, representative datasets for AI training specific to Australia’s demographics. She cautioned against uploading sensitive patient data into AI systems without local security controls, stressing the necessity of preserving patient privacy and consent.

Professor Verspoor further asserted, “Australia needs its own well-curated data sets to train AI effectively for our population, ensuring the accuracy and relevance of AI applications in our healthcare system.”

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