How can artificial intelligence be used to improve health outcomes in New Zealand?

Health inequalities are a major issue that affect society in complex and compounding ways. Gaps in health are great, persistent, and increasing within New Zealand and around the world. Health equity means increasing opportunities for everyone to live the healthiest life possible, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they make.

Marianne Cherrington is a Principal Lecturer in the Applied Management department at Otago Polytechnic's Auckland International Campus (OPAIC) whose research interests include computer analytics and sustainability. She teamed up with Tavish Sehgal to explore the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in health. Tavish completed his Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Management at OPAIC and also worked as a peer tutor at the campus. His research interests include IT cyber security and tracking and predicting carbon emissions.

The pair’s research showed healthcare solutions using AI and machine learning are already in use globally and feature in parts of the healthcare system in New Zealand. Neurology, oncology, cardiology and genetics all use AI. They said the Ministry of Health is developing an approach that operates around deepening the understanding of equity gaps, shifting thinking about where priorities for investment of time and resources should lie, and increasing direct action to address inequality. There is potential for AI to help, for example:

  • Machine learning prediction for scheduling.
  • Digital assistants to educate, answer multi-lingual queries and perform administrative tasks.
  • AI digital health professionals.
  • Auto-diagnosis, pharmacogenomics, and personalised treatments with or without genetic testing.

Their research concluded that AI must be part of the solution, building on key strengths and initiatives already successful in Aotearoa.

April 2022