A review of innovation in the healthcare sector from the University of Sydney Business School has found the uptake of tech is lacking in most medical fields - except surgery.
Dr Massimo Garbuio, a senior lecturer in entrepreneurship, said that although investment in start-ups is significant, complex barriers to implementing change and innovation remain.
These “unnecessary” barriers, which vary from complicated funding structure to emotional attitudes towards healthcare, have resulted in the uneven advancement of medical technologies - to the detriment of patients in different sectors.
The National Blood Authority, for instance, only recently gained real-time insight into national blood supplies and had to undertake significant consultation with stakeholders to develop and implement the solution.
Privacy and accessibility are other major concerns, as highlighted by the protracted debate surrounding the My Health Record scheme.
One of the few areas to see rapid development of tech inside practices is surgery, with robots increasingly used to assist in lengthy operations or increasingly in remote environments.
“Innovation in surgery, for example, has been massive with the surgical robotics market now worth an estimated $20.4 billion,” Garbuio said.
And patients aren’t the only ones benefitting from robots in the operating theatre, as Swinburne University academics have begun looking at how technology could prevent career-ending repetitive strain injuries in surgeons.
“However, in many other areas patients are missing out on the benefits of new technology based on advances in artificial intelligence.”
He believes part of the problem is because the technology “exists in a human environment and humans are largely resistant to change,” and not because it’s unreliable.
That resistance might come from patients and their families, but Garbuio added that there is an understandable reluctance amongst healthcare professionals to take risks, which is amplified by historically poor data collection and management within the healthcare system.
“Unfortunately, it’s in healthcare where inefficiencies and money wasted means people go unseen, where not enough data results in something critical missed, or where too much repetition or steps mean extra trauma,” Garbuio said.
“AI is just like any other technology in that it will require behavioural change to realise its full utility and significance.
“Given that its full utility is enhancing and saving lives, we owe it to ourselves to do what we can to help it navigate the emotions of the humans it depends on to deliver it to the people who need it.”
In the academic setting that supports innovation in practice, Garbuio said there’s also a lack of collaboration between medical, management and entrepreneurship scholars, compounded by “hierarchical management structure in healthcare organisations and the effect of competition for research funding”.
However, tech isn’t always the answer to problems in healthcare, as one family in California found out when a doctor on a robot’s video screen told them their great-grandfather only had days to live, rather than telling them in person.