As our job roles evolve alongside digitalisation, we need to prepare our future radiologists to be even more patient-centric. Our value as clinicians lies in what we can do for our patients, not in what we do to them.
Most people would associate artificial intelligence (AI) with a hypothetical concept. In reality, AI is a tool that can be applied to solve many problems we face in healthcare. I started practising radiology at CGH in 2009. My journey was inspired by Associate Professor Tan Tiong Yong, who performs his work with flair and acumen. Within radiology lies the opportunity to hone one’s investigative skills to solve the most perplexing clinical questions.
With the mentorship I received from my seniors, I represented CGH at conferences locally and abroad, both as an educator and researcher. The interaction with top academics at international meetings broadened my perspective and ignited a fire within me. Funded by CGH and SingHealth, I embarked on my own innovation and research work. Thereafter, I co-founded the AI, Data Science and Imaging Informatics subsection of the Singapore Radiological Society.
My work in AI innovation involves advocacy and networking. I connect key opinion leaders in the healthcare industry and academia with our budding community of clinicians who have an interest in innovation. There are also occasions when I seed my ideas through the various teams I work with at the SingHealth Radiological Sciences Academic Clinical Programme, or within CGH. I provide consultation for AI projects and teach the concept of Deep Learning to our junior doctors. We are currently building infrastructure to share AI models amongst different hospitals without the need to exchange patient data.
Evolution of radiology curriculum
Our trainees have experienced a change in their radiology curriculum over the past five years. Today, the curriculum for Year Fours in the National Radiology Specialist Training Didactic Programme, at the College of Radiologists in Singapore, is themed “preparation for practice” and dedicated entirely to teaching soft skills. We have also incorporated several lectures on AI, computer coding and informatics in their curriculum.
Using AI tools to improve patient outcomes
CGH and the Integrated Health Information Systems have developed a Community Acquired Pneumonia and COVID-19 Artificial Intelligence Predictive Engine (CAPE) that can determine the likelihood of whether a patient has mild or severe pneumonia, based on the chest X-ray image. This will help alert doctors to patients who are likely to become critically ill and enable the prioritisation of treatment resources. An advantage of using AI as a predictive tool is the ability to calculate the risk of patients requiring critical care almost instantaneously. Medical teams can then receive an early warning for possible clinical deterioration and prescribe the appropriate interim measures to improve patient outcomes. ...
CAPE is also able to present our patients’ X-ray images in the way it needs to be read by the radiologist. It can be used to sieve out a dangerously ill patient’s scan more efficiently, potentially saving lives.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, CGH built an algorithm that integrated existing data in our electronic systems to accelerate the contact tracing process. On days when there were multiple daily new cases, the contact tracing team used the comprehensive generated reports to expedite the contact tracing activities downstream. This algorithm has reduced more than half the time needed for contact tracing.
Future of healthcare with the use of AI
With Singapore’s ageing population, we have used AI and digitisation to screen our patients for diseases and manage their conditions in a community healthcare setting before the illness starts impacting their quality of life.
There has to be a fine balance in the process of transforming healthcare. We have to be mindful not to disrupt everything all at once with the adoption of innovative processes and approaches. As an innovator, the most important skillset is the ability to work in a team - to identify problems, fix them, improvise and see what works. We must encourage inquisitiveness and reward efforts that push new frontiers for healthcare transformation in Singapore.