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AI in healthcare is here to stay

By Priscilla Lynch - 26th May 2024

Prof Erwin Loh

Artificial intelligence (AI) is here to stay and is well on its way to transforming how healthcare is delivered for both healthcare workers and patients, the Irish Society for Rheumatology 2024 Spring Meeting heard.

Prof Erwin Loh from the Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation, Monash University, Australia, gave a tour de force in-person lecture on the rise of AI in medicine.

Prof Loh is a renowned international expert in the area, and has lectured and written books and articles on the topic, including a commentary in the BMJ Leader on ChatGPT.

While accountability and regulation are key, and countries need to catch up rapidly on this, AI has multiple potential positive consequences for the field of medicine, across drug discovery, disease prediction, screening, diagnosis, and treatment guidance, he noted.

AI has already proven to be as good as doctors and sometimes better in comparative studies of its use in diagnosing disease/abnormalities in cancer screening and retinal diseases. It has also been studied in psychiatry in relation to its potential as a suicide prediction tool, with quite promising results to date, Prof Loh reported.

AI is also being increasingly incorporated into surgical and procedure tools; for example, in endoscopy and robotic surgical systems.

However, its use in clinical practice is not yet overseen with specific governance and regulation, he noted. As AI becomes more autonomous, the question arises as to who is accountable/responsible?

“Who does the patient sue if something goes wrong?”

Intellectual copyright and ethical concerns are also arising.

Another issue he raised is that AI and deep learning models are only as good as the data they are learning from.

Prof Loh cautioned that, unfortunately, the internet has many sources with ‘skewed’ data or research focused on certain patient populations, which should not be generalised.

Concerns aside, he concluded that AI is here to stay and has fantastic potential in medicine and could help address medical workforce shortages.

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