An Impressive Festival of Digital Innovation - DHF 2023

10 July 2023

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Jo Symons, Health Workforce Strategy Manager, recently attended the Digital Health Festival, DHF2023, in Melbourne, with the purpose to explore digital health enablement and current sector expertise in providing solutions to Queensland’s primary health workforce challenges. She subsequently had her mind twisted, stretched and morphed into different shapes by the cutting-edge content and innovative format of the conference.

It really was a ‘festival of ideas & innovation’ featuring multi-stream concurrent presentations across 5 stages, networking areas and an extensive HealthTech start-up village, all integrated within a large exhibition space at Melbourne’s MCEC. Fancy a lunch break - no! It was all go with no stopping for breaks over the entire two days.

There were so many outstanding and distinguished presenters including the CEO of the Australian Digital Health Agency, First Assistant Secretary Digital Transformation & Delivery - Aged Care Reform Branch in DHAC and the Global Healthcare CIO Advisor for Zoom among literally 300 others.

Highlights included a panel discussion, “A linguistic stunt takes over the world: how to responsibly design, develop and use Generative of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare and medicine’. It was put forward that ChatGPT is ‘maths, not magic’, but that even OpenAI do not have full vision on how the algorithms mimic human intelligence. So it was recommended to adopt a steady approach - utilising ChatGPT with low risk use-cases first and feeding peer reviewed and trusted sources into it, to let it summarise what it finds while ‘the bonnet is opened to find out how it works in there”. Somewhat scarily, the latest GPT4 has been demonstrated to pass the United States medical exams at ‘expert level’ – better than medical students! More comfortingly, the panel concluded that we are still a long way away from using ChatGPT to diagnose for healthcare.

A later presenter, on the ethical use of AI, stated that the original title of his presentation was ‘Large Language Models (LLMs) not ready yet for use in health care’ , but in the 8 weeks since he submitted that presentation to the conference committee he had changed his mind due to the pace in which things were moving. He is now cautiously supportive. He commented on a research article in JAMA Internal Medicine April 28, 2023 which compared GP and AI chatbot responses to patient queries posted to a public social media forum. The AI Chatbot was perceived by users as providing significantly better quality and more empathetic responses! What we do know from this unexpected performance of generative AI in clinician patient interactions is that in this rapidly moving space we need to drive AI with health investment and medical people in the loop of its evolution to ensure LLMs can be used ethically to revolutionize the future of health and medicine.

Further concurrent sessions identified innovative ways of mining data from gaming apps to support physiotherapy rehabilitation programs where multiple repetitions of exercises are required to facilitate physical recover; mining data from the ‘Sound Scout’ App which is reviewed by an audiologist to screen for kids hearing; and to support and monitor youth mental health and wellbeing.

In a tour through the extensive exhibition booths, a product was discussed that works in a GP/health professional telehealth appointment to instruct ChatGPT to record the practitioner/patient conversation and transcribe it into the patient record. Reportedly, the product was interoperable with many GP practice software products. Additionally, ChatGPT can be instructed to summarise the consultation and can translate from 22 languages. During a consultation there is an option to have subtitles appear on the screen so an interpreting service is not needed. ChatGPT can complete a referral to other specialists. The key to implementing this in a practice would have to be the identification of low risk use cases initially, and review of ChatGPT produced information for accuracy.

It is safe to say that at this conference I learnt that generative AI and low-code drag and drop platforms are revolutionizing the future of health care. Digital enablement is a fundamental plank for health care reform, which relies on the right people, supportive policy, informed processes, the right technology plus all the change management that comes hand in hand with tech implementation. Furthermore, it is essential that inter-sectoral collaboration is established and maintained to ensure platforms developed are fit for purpose and acceptable to users.

What a whirlwind of information! You can find out more about the Digital Health Festival 2023 and 2024 and please reach out to Jo at if you have any questions about the content of this article.