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The Future is Here: AI in Healthcare

Doctor using technology to assist with healthcare

The fusion of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning into our daily lives marks a transformative era, particularly in the healthcare sector. Recognising this potential, the Australian Government in its 2023-2024 budget revealed plans to provide $41.2 million to foster the integration of responsible AI technologies into the economy. This is in addition to the earlier $44 million allocation towards establishing four AI and Digital Capacity Centres, signifying a robust commitment to nurturing AI’s growth and application.


But what exactly are AI and machine learning?


AI embodies the creation of machines and systems that simulate human intelligence, performing tasks that typically require human cognition.


Machine learning, a subset of AI, empowers machines to autonomously learn from data and improve over time. By analysing vast datasets, these systems can uncover patterns and make predictions or decisions without being explicitly programmed for each task.


The implications are profound in healthcare. AI and machine learning are revolutionising how we approach preventative care, diagnose diseases, personalise treatments, and manage patient care.


AI algorithms can now accurately interpret medical images, identify cancerous tumours at early stages, and predict patient outcomes with remarkable precision. AI algorithms are already outperforming radiologists in spotting malignant tumours.  Excitingly, AI is also emerging as an efficient diagnostic tool for diseases like tuberculosis, with AI analysis of chest x-rays and cough recordings being reliable indicators of active disease.


On a broader scale, machine learning models are being used to analyse electronic health records for insights into patient health trends, treatment outcomes, and risk factors. This capability enables a more proactive and preventative approach to healthcare, likely saving lives and reducing costs.


While AI in healthcare settings still requires human oversight, it is certainly emerging as a ground-breaking resource for diagnostics and patient outcomes.


Investments in the research and development of these innovative technologies is an essential step forward for improving healthcare and decreasing the global burden of disease. By continuing to support the responsible development and integration of AI technologies, and by sharing these resources with our neighbours, Australia can position itself at the forefront of a healthcare revolution, promising improved outcomes for patients and a more efficient, effective healthcare system.


From where we stand today, the continued evolution of AI and machine learning in healthcare offers a glimpse into a future where technology and human expertise converge to enhance the well-being of populations worldwide.


Nari Ali is a 2024 Results Australia Global Health Fellow. She is a practicing lawyer, currently pursuing a Master of Health Law at Monash University.


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