AI regulation essential to keep patients safe: RACGP

Monday, 31 July, 2023

AI regulation essential to keep patients safe: RACGP

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) says artificial intelligence (AI) could revolutionise medicine, but regulation is essential to keep patients safe.

The RACGP has provided a response to a Department of Industry, Science and Resources discussion paper, Safe and responsible AI in Australia, calling for:

  • A risk-based approach for responsible AI be mandated through regulation.
  • An oversight body to develop a framework and oversee and monitor developments in healthcare AI.
  • GPs to be involved in the development, implementation, regulation and ongoing monitoring of AI relevant to general practice.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said GPs are early adopters and leaders in technology, and it will be no different with artificial intelligence.

“AI has great potential to revolutionise medicine and improve people’s lives,” she said.

“GPs are early adopters of technology, and leaders in tech, and it’s no different with AI. Australian GPs are already developing AI products.

“Of course, there must be regulation to keep patients safe, and the RACGP is calling on government to create an oversight body to regulate, oversee and monitor developments in healthcare AI, and GPs need to be at the table.

GPs need be involved in the regulation of AI in health care, as well as the development and implementation of AI solutions, to ensure they’re safe, fit for purpose and can be integrated into practice across Australia.

“GPs can also advise on the use of health data to develop AI. Large, high-quality datasets are needed to train AI, which require patient consent, and they must represent our patient community, including our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and culturally diverse groups. Because if they don’t, it risks health issues being misdiagnosed or missed altogether, and could worsen health inequality.

“While AI has great potential to improve care, we need to be clear about its limitations. What AI can’t do is replace the relationship, trust and continuity of care that a GP provides, which is what makes people healthier. Australia’s GPs need to be empowered to adopt AI, which is responsibly developed and regulated, so we can improve our patients’ lives.”

The RACGP has a position statement on artificial intelligence in primary care, which outlines the significant challenges posed by using AI technologies in the delivery of medicine. The college’s position statement on electronic clinical decision support also includes recommendations relevant to AI.

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