Technology in regional health services – did you know?

Artificial Intelligence and Robotics are two significant areas that we are seeing dramatic advancements in and which will continue as we move more into the next economy. How are these areas impacting regional health services? We chatted to a young professional Matt Ashby from Queensland Health to find out.

eHealth is currently working with both AI and robotics – and it is quite exciting! Within robotics we are doing a lot of work and research. There is a trial happening in the far north and one of the biggest things we are using robotics for is in translation – being able to have someone sit down and rather than calling in translator, you have a robot that can come in and translate for you. Her name is TESSA!

“We have TESSA helping us in other ways – one of the big things that TESSA does during rounds at the Children’s Hospital was that she had the ability to tell jokes, play noughts and crosses – and from a parent’s perspective, this was a great service to offer children who were in hospital undertaking treatment.”

“Artificial Intelligence supports TESSA and the other robotic projects within the hospital, but we are also using AI in our call centres to try and reduce call times and help doctors get back to what they need to be doing, not spending so much time on the phone with IT.”

“To have medical professionals spend less time with IT services and more time with patients.”

“One of the other big areas within IT that I see a lot of potential is in facial recognition. Within emergency departments, we see cases of troublesome patients and I have always thought of trying to fund or do something with where if a person comes into the hospital who may have caused some disruption in the past, it can throw up an alert that advises the staff as to the history of a patient and inform other areas of the hospital who may need to monitor and intervene. This technology could support the administration and nursing staff in being proactive in their workplace and keeping all patients and practitioners safe and treat all patients in the ways they need.”

“The other areas are drones. We are looking at ways in which we can utilise drones to deliver medication and antibiotics via drones to remote patients and to disaster areas”.

Matt also identified the importance of ethics in this area. So, when asked to share his view on the future of these technologies, Matt said:

“One of the biggest things with AI that I see is ethics. We have companies like the European Coordinating Committee for Artificial Intelligence, and they are doing a lot of work within the European setting. We do have the Australian Computing Society that are doing some work. They do have a board, but I think the Government needs to recognise this and support it more at a national level. Ethics is really important and how the data is used and stored needs to be considered.”

When asked about the biggest challenge with technology –

“Keeping up with technology trends is one of the biggest things. Technology moves incredibly fast and within Queensland Health, we have a lot of quality assurance built in to ensure that whenever we implement a new technology that it’s done so without bugs, issues and is fit for purpose. The issue with the process is that sometimes we can get left behind with technology. When you look at the private sector, and they are doing some cool things with technology. Many people may ask ‘Why can’t you just do it?’ – and because of our QA processes, we aren’t able to do it or as quickly.”

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