The tectonic shift in Australian healthcare
The use of new technologies in healthcare can improve patient experience by providing better control and access to personal data, while enabling doctors to deliver more personalised diagnoses and treatments. In this article, we will discuss how digital technologies such as big data, cybersecurity, AI and quantum computing will make a significant impact on the healthcare system in Australia over the next decade.
Telehealth: the new normal
The pandemic has changed the way we do many things and this includes getting a healthcare consultation. According to Digital Health, 86,632 practitioners across Australia have delivered 70.5 million telehealth services to almost 15 million patients since March 2020. With healthcare consultations at our fingertips, all residents of Australia, regardless of whether they live in rural, regional areas, cities or country towns, can now connect with their GP, health provider or specialist over a phone call or video call. While it won’t replace essential visits when a physical examination is necessary, it has shown what is possible for health consultation in the future. An effective telehealth system enables isolated or at-risk patients to access healthcare from anywhere.
Using digital technologies to protect sensitive data
Virtual visits to the GP may help protect the most fragile of our community and reduce geographical barriers to healthcare, but they do have a few drawbacks. While making data available through interoperable systems enables patient information to be shared instantaneously, the data is also vulnerable to cyberattacks against healthcare systems, making it critical for healthcare departments to invest in cybersecurity. Digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT) can be leveraged to detect, prevent and anticipate cyberthreats.
Unlocking research and healthcare with AI
Deploying AI technology alongside clinical guidance can help healthcare systems to meet important targets in terms of clinical decision support, disease surveillance and population health management. The Australian government is investing in artificial intelligence-based health research projects designed to prevent, diagnose and treat a range of health conditions.
Automation in healthcare will improve efficiency across the industry. It will be sifting through enormous amounts of research studies to support specific treatment decisions, and through smart scheduling to ensure that patients are receiving adequate follow-up treatment. As an example, the University of Sydney is working on using machine learning to improve youth mental health treatments. In this research project, AI is used to test and quantify the impacts of mental health interventions. This will ultimately develop a new ethical clinical decision-support tool to target assessment and interventions that will optimize outcomes for patients.
Preparing the ground for quantum computing
Australians may be able to witness the benefits of quantum computing in healthcare within just a few years. Examples include conducting virtual drug trials in a fraction of the current time, running treatment simulations on virtual patients, and predicting potential outcomes of a pandemic across an entire population. Indeed, quantum computing’s unique ability to process data in a non-binary way allows it to input enormous amounts of variables at once.
The two key challenges at present are, first, the sheer amount of data that needs to be incorporated to obtain useful results; and second, the size and expense of the hardware. Yet, as more data is generated and the scalability issue is addressed, the hope is that this technology will assist diagnostic clinicians to tailor healthcare to patients in the most specific way ever imagined.
The hope is that technology will assist diagnostic clinicians to tailor healthcare to patients in the most specific way ever imagined.