A passion for AI in healthcare

Artificial intelligence (AI) will play a major role in the future of healthcare, according to Dr Ngiam.

“Being able to support clinical decisions based on highly accurate predictions of patients’ outcomes would be a game changer. If this is done at population scale, I think that will change the way we practice medicine as we know it,” he says.

Over the years, Dr Ngiam has been awarded numerous awards for his work in research and education, including the ExxonMobil-NUS research fellowship for clinicians in 2007.

Innovation in healthcare

At NUHS, he is responsible for overseeing technology deployment in the western healthcare cluster and serves as chief advisor to the NUHS Centre for Innovation in Healthcare.

“Being able to launch some of these platforms and realise the potential of the AI tools in clinical practice is probably one of the key highlights of my career,” Dr Ngiam says. “Specifically in the last four years, we’ve managed to build, launch and operate Discovery AI, which is a platform that allows our clinicians and researchers to use the data we have to develop AI tools.”

“If you look at the world of healthcare AI, there are many publications and papers but very few actual clinical use cases,” Dr Ngiam explains. “What we want to do in the next few years is deploy and scale AI tools that we’ve been doing so much research on in clinical practice. And to that end, we have built a platform called Endeavour AI, which we’ll be launching soon.”

One common concern is that AI could erode the relationship between patients and clinicians, but Dr Ngiam refutes this.

“These AI tools do not replace the clinicians in any way. They support the clinicians in performing the sort of repetitive menial tasks that should be done by machines,” he says. “Ethical and legal considerations in the way doctors use AI decision support need to be addressed through rigorous validation of AI tools, as well as appropriate training of clinicians in their use.”

Working together

Dr Ngiam is also associate professor, department of surgery at Yong Loo Lin school of medicine, where he researches AI applications in healthcare and endocrine and metabolic surgery.

He is a strong advocate of interdisciplinary collaboration between the schools of medicine, engineering and computer science.

“Clinicians don’t have the technical ability to build an AI tool ground up from scratch by themselves, so typically we need to collaborate with computer science or data scientists,” he says. “This is a prime example of how interdisciplinary collaboration can result in a product that is applicable to the healthcare system, as well as generate new knowledge in computer science and data science.”

Dr Ngiam is speaking at the HIMSS21 APAC Conference during the keynote session, Getting Personal with Emerging Tech. This fully digital event will take place on 18 & 19 October and is free for all healthcare providers. Register here.

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