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A Perth hospital group has ordered doctors to stop using Chat GPT for patient notes.
--Photo ABC News: Stephan Hammat/Adobe Stock

Australian Medical Association calls for national regulations around AI in health care

(ABC) -- Doctors in Perth have been ordered not to use AI bot technology, with authorities concerned about patient confidentiality.
In an email obtained by the ABC, Perth’s South Metropolitan Health Service (SMHS), which spans five hospitals, said some staff had been using software, such as ChatGPT, to write medical notes which were then being uploaded to patient record systems.
“Crucially, at this stage, there is no assurance of patient confidentiality when using AI bot technology, such as ChatGPT, nor do we fully understand the security risks,” the email from SMHS chief executive, Paul Forden said.
“For this reason, the use of AI technology, including ChatGPT, for work-related activity that includes any patient or potentially sensitive health service information must cease immediately.”
Since the directive, the service has clarified that only one doctor used the AI tool to generate a patient discharge summary and there had been no breach of patient confidential information.
However, the case highlights the level of concern in the health sector about the new models of unregulated AI that continue to be let loose on the market.
Australia’s peak medical association is urging caution and calling for national regulations to control the use of artificial intelligence in the healthcare system.
The Australian Medical Association’s WA President, Mark Duncan-Smith, said he did not think the use of tools like ChatGPT was widespread in the profession.
“Probably there are some medical geeks out there who are just giving it a go and seeing what it’s like,” Dr Duncan-Smith said.
“I’m not sure how it would save time or effort.
“It runs the risk of betraying the patient’s confidence and confidentiality and it’s certainly not appropriate at this stage.”
That view is shared by Alex Jenkins, who heads up the WA Data Science Innovation Hub at Curtin University.
Mr Jenkins said the developer of ChatGPT had recently introduced a way that users could stop their data from being shared, but that it was still not a suitable platform for sensitive information like patients’ records.
“OpenAI have made modifications to ensure that your data won’t be used to train future versions of the AI,” he said.
“But still, putting any kind of data on a public website exposes it to some risk of hackers taking that data or the website being exposed to security vulnerabilities.”
Mr Jenkins said there was huge potential for similar software to be developed specifically for hospitals.
“The opportunity to develop medical-specific AI is enormous,” he said.
“If they are deployed safely inside hospitals, where people’s data is protected, then we stand to benefit as a society from this amazing technology.”
When it comes to AI in the health system generally, the possibilities are staggering.
John Konstantopoulos co-founded a Perth-based company that has developed AI to help measure the risk of heart disease within 10 minutes.
It is being currently trialled at radiology and cardiology practices around the country.
“In Australia, one person dies of heart disease every 12 minutes and it costs the Australian economy roughly US$5 billion each year, which is more than any other disease that we experience,” he said.
“What we found was that traditional diagnostic approaches for assessing people with heart disease have primarily focused on risk factors such as cholesterol, calcification and narrowing of coronary arteries but in roughly 50 percent of people, the first indication of any heart disease was death.”
Mr Konstantopoulos said their AI was designed to identify plaque in CT scans that was “vulnerable” to inflammation and rupture.
He said it could help clinicians make a more informed assessment of what the patient’s risk was and how best to treat them.
“That plaque is incredibly hard to see and very time consuming to find,” he said.
“If you think of our AI almost like a driverless vehicle or autonomous vehicle, the sensors basically drive down the arteries in the CT scan and use those sensors across every coronary artery to find the disease and highlight that back up to the clinician so that they have a very specific view of what that patient’s risk is.”
While the AMA sees the potential of AI,  it has written to the Federal Government’s Digital Technology Taskforce, calling for regulation to protect patients’ rights and ensure improved health outcomes are achieved.
“We need to develop standards where it is ensured that there is actually a human at the end of the decision-making tree that makes sure that it’s actually appropriate,” Dr Duncan-Smith.

(Latest Update May 29, 2023)

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