How artificial intelligence can support the clinical workflow in the future

Guest speaker Professor Karin Verspoor (second from right) with (l-r) the Women's Chief Medical Officer Mark Garwood, the Women's CEO Professor Sue Matthews and Chair of the Senior Medical Staff Association at the Women's Dr Stephen Lee
26 October 2023 | Events

Artificial intelligence (AI) applications have entered our everyday world. How and in what circumstances AI can support the medical profession was the topic of the Women’s 2023 Tracy Maund Oration.

Professor Karin Verspoor, Dean of the School of Computing Technologies at RMIT University, was guest speaker at last night’s event. She discussed the opportunities and risks of AI in healthcare.

Professor Verspoor explained that AI models are not intelligent themselves but merely simulate human intelligence. Today, these models can already solve specific tasks successfully.

“The most successful applications are in image processing,” Professor Verspoor said. “We already have fantastic systems that can look at skin lesions and determine if they are cancerous or not.”

Professor Verspoor is keen to understand how AI can be used across the clinical workflow environment - from personalised risk assessments to prescribing medications to patient communication.

Yet, Professor Verspoor is very aware of the risks of this new technology.

“What these systems can't really do yet is make sense of novel situations. They cannot solve new puzzles that we haven't seen before.”

Professor Verspoor stressed that more evidence needs to be collected which demonstrates AI tools are ‘medical grade’ before their use becomes widespread in the medical field.

She said it is crucial to ensure that AI tools are free of bias and do not produce misleading information.

“This comes back to evaluation,” Professor Verspoor said. “We need to have rigorous regulations around these systems so we can trust them in our decision-making process.”

Overall, Professor Verspoor sees a bright future for the safe use of AI in healthcare.

“We have potential here. AI might be able to improve our clinical interactions and also help enhance clinical care.

“But there's still work to be done. We need more evidence about the clinical value of these tools.”

The Tracy Maund Oration is an annual event, named in honour of the two founders of the Women’s, Richard Tracy and John Maund.