Artificial Intelligence to be the game changer for patient outcomes

The use and benefits of new technologies by the healthcare sector has recently been in the news, with British Prime Minister Theresa May announcing plans to use artificial intelligence (AI) and data in the diagnosis of chronic diseases.

“The United Kingdom will use data, artificial intelligence and innovation to transform the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and dementia by 2030,” Mrs May said in a speech in late May. The announcement created headlines in the UK and around the world.

The excitement of the announcement is shared by Dr Martin Than, Emergency Medicine Specialist at the Canterbury District Health Board, New Zealand, who will explore AI and what it means for emergency medicine when he presents as a keynote speaker the 35th Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) in Perth later this year.

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Early Bird Registration is open for the ASM, themed ‘On the Edge’. Join us 18-22 November in Perth where we explore the multiple different facets of life in emergency medicine.

Check out the program and further details on the ASM website.

On the Edge of AI in emergency medicine

Dr Than is the Director of Research at Christchurch Hospital’s Emergency Department and has a specific interest in evidence-based healthcare and the safe rapid translation of research findings into clinical practice.

With his deep interest in new technologies and AI he will discuss what technology, machine learning and artificial intelligence will impact emergency medicine.

“Medicine will start to change dramatically in the next five years,” Dr Than says. “And I think we all accept that change is happening but I don’t think people quite understand just the extent and speed of change.”

Caution and skepticism regarding new technology is natural and appropriate and in part, that reaction is following the ‘hype cycle’, according to Dr Than. The hype cycle is a tool that provides a graphic representation of the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications. Basically, technology goes through various stages on the rocky road to mass adoption.

For Dr Than, the benefits of AI in emergency medicine are starting to crystallize and become more widely understood.

“Soon we will have the data, the machine enhanced techniques to use the data and analyse it, and have the processing power to do it in real time at the patient bed side,” he said. “So those three things together fundamentally change what can happen in patient care. For any patients in front of you at any one time, you should be able to make quite precise and individualised predictive diagnoses.

“Research as we know it will continue but much research will actually become real time patient care. Each new patient that you treat will become one more patient in your database that leads to the treatment of the next patient immediately afterwards.”

Dr Than says despite the advances in technology, data and use of computers, there would always be a role for emergency physicians. In fact, it is the hope that doctors and nurses will be freed up to spend more time communicating with patients.

“I see this (new technology) as being a bit like an angel on your shoulder,” Dr Than says. “You don’t have to listen to it, but it will be prompting you and giving you advice when you ask for it.

“I believe that it’s definitely going to happen, it’s going to come quicker than we expect.”

Dr Than is aware that, like in the UK, sceptics and opposition to AI exists, but says the issue has moved on from “publishing some interesting observational findings in a journal”.

“This is actually about taking data and applying it to the next patient you are going to see,” Dr Than says. “So that to me is doing something very meaningful and something that drives me to continue this work.”