Emerging AI tech receives funding to revolutionise remote healthcare

Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI) and modern technology, are set to revolutionise Australian healthcare, providing tangible benefits to even our most remote regions.

These advances are typified by the work of two Australian researchers who are developing medical AI software that holds the potential to dramatically improve the health and livelihood of Australians, including those living in remote and rural areas.

Drumbeat.ai to address hearing and balance difficulties

Dr Al-Rahim Habib and Dr Allison Young have collectively been awarded over $300,000 by the Passe and Williams Foundation to develop AI technologies that address hearing and balance difficulties, especially for those living in remote Australian areas.

“Australia’s world-leading scientists and technologists work tirelessly to help solve complex health challenges – deploying new medical innovations to transform people’s lives,” said Science & Technology Australia CEO Misha Schubert.

“Artificial intelligence is an exciting part of this work, developing emerging technologies that have potential to help more Australians than ever before,” said Ms Schubert.

“It’s always great to see technological developments to improve health, safety and wellbeing – and to see research in pursuit of those goals supported with funding.”

Dr Habib was awarded $109,342 by the Passe and Williams Foundation to develop an app to reduce the prevalence of ear disease among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Additionally, Dr Young was awarded a fellowship by the foundation worth $191,000 to develop a virtual expert tool to diagnose vestibular disorders (like vertigo).

Dr Habib’s DrumBeat.ai app looks to solve what the World Health Organisation has declared a “public health emergency”.  

Operated on a smartphone with minimal training, Drumbeat.ai will provide healthcare workers in remote communities the ability to diagnose and treat ear disease in children.

The aim is to prevent a lifelong cycle of related issues like poor education, unemployment and consequently, greater risk of encounters with the criminal justice system.

Dr Allison Young’s diagnostic tool is intended to be used in otolaryngology or neurology outpatient clinics, hospital emergency rooms and general practice.

It will allow diagnosis of vestibular disorders through a simple eye examination for abnormal eye-movements, alongside the results of inner-ear balance tests.

Stakeholder’s comments on the initiative

Dr Narinder Singh, Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Sydney and head of the Otolaryngology Department at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital appreciated the initiative.

“Emerging medical technologies allow the automation of complex but mundane tasks, improving specialists’ productivity, and illuminate the “game-changing” potential held by AI.”

Dr Jeanette Pritchard, CEO of the Passe and Williams Foundation said, “Healthcare access for all members of our community, regardless of location, should be of great importance. Medical AI could provide elegant solutions to many longstanding problems.”

Dr Singh applauds the Australian Government’s commitment to invest $21 million toward improving the country’s hearing health over the next five years, among other initiatives.

“Progressing novel AI technologies through the clinical trial stages and into the hands of clinicians should be a high priority in terms of advancing Australia’s healthcare system.”

“Having grown up on a farm in country NSW, I’m particularly attuned to the ability of innovative AI solutions to address many of the healthcare challenges facing rural and remote Australians.”

“Funding of these projects, such as that generously provided by the Passe and Williams Foundation, is crucial in providing research teams with the resources needed to develop and perfect these tools,” said Dr Singh.