Hospital set for AI medical scans in ‘Australian first’

A Queensland public hospital is set to use artificial intelligence for medical scans, in what has been hailed as an Australian first.

Queensland Premier Steven Miles backed the technology’s use in health care after Gold Coast University Hospital confirmed it would look at AI to expedite X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds and CT scans.

The hospital is in a tender phase for introducing the technology to streamline its radiology department.

“It is our understanding that we are the first public hospital to undertake this procurement in Australia,” a hospital spokesperson told AAP.

The tender process is expected to take six months, with an AI clinical trial set to start in 2025.

“It’s not just about adopting technology,” said hospital spokesman Sandip Kumar.

“It’s about putting it through the appropriate research framework, making sure that the technology is validated, actually improving health care and we can measure it, and then we’ll implement it.”

The technology is expected to work in tandem with radiologists when assessing medical images.

Mr Kumar said AI implementation could lead to a 20 per cent increase in staff productivity.

It is not expected to impact staffing numbers or provide patient diagnosis.

The hospital is looking at AI in a bid to find a more efficient system after finally completing a huge scan backlog.

In July 2023 the hospital’s radiology department had more than 50,000 images to clear due to staff shortages and surging demand.

The Gold Coast health service had to increase its outsourcing of X-rays, CT scans and ultrasounds to the private sector amid concerns the 54,000 backlog could put patients at risk.

“The original backlog of X-rays from last year is now at zero,” the hospital said.

The hospital has recruited an additional six full-time equivalent radiographers.

The hospital’s Dr Salim Memon said clinicians would benefit most from AI’s categorising of images which could identify abnormalities for staff.

The premier supported AI’s use in health care.

“The fact is that this supports them to do their job more productively and more efficiently and deliver,” Mr Miles said.

The technology is already being used in South Australia’s hospitals.

Locally developed “Adelaide Score” AI has predicted when patients should be ready for discharge from surgery since May 2023, freeing up beds and easing ramping.

The NSW government has established a task force to oversee the creation of an AI framework for its safe and successful use in the state’s public health system.

NSW Health AI initiatives are already in place including integrated electronic medical records and engineering for complex data analysis.

The Australian Medical Association said any introduction of AI must be done with appropriate consultation, transparency and accountability with ongoing reviews.


Fraser Barton
(Australian Associated Press)


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