Last month, our office, with support from the Ministry of Health organised a one-day workshop and a symposium about the use of AI in our healthcare system.

Chief Science Advisor for the Ministry of Health, Professor Ian Town, recently hosted two events to socialise the findings of the OPMCSA report, Capturing the benefits of AI in healthcare for Aotearoa New Zealand. The first was a workshop bringing together the report panel, other experts, and ministry officials and the second was, a public symposium providing an opportunity to hear from leaders in the health and medical sector.

The workshop welcomed a range of stakeholders to start a dialogue about some of the opportunities and underlying challenges we may face in deploying AI technologies in healthcare. Using the principles and recommendations from our report, facilitators guided group conversations on the themes of governance, regulation, research, industry, and the general AI in healthcare landscape. Clear themes emerged within the conversations across the groups: the importance of trust; identifying, mitigating, and managing risks; and striking the balance between trust and risk so that the healthcare system can move forward.

The workshop discussion highlighted the increasing use of AI in healthcare settings, and the governance structures needed for its growing use in New Zealand. There were concerns that key parts of the system needed support to keep up, and some of the gaps and challenges for these parts of the system were discussed. Examples of key parts of the system that would benefit from support included the regulatory environment, data and physical infrastructure, and education and training for our existing workforce and future talent.

Workshop discussion table.

From left to right: Leigh Donoghue, Dr Di Sarfati, and Professor Ian Town.

Dr Jade presenting the PMCSA report.

Symposium attendees.


The afternoon’s public symposium was opened by Ian who explained the report writing process, and shared his experience of working with the OPMCSA and  co-chairing the expert panel. Dr Di Sarfati, Director General of Health and Chief Executive of the Ministry of Health, shared her enthusiasm for advancements in precision health and highlighted some of the New Zealand companies that are paving the way to deliver better health outcomes. Leigh Donoghue, Chief Data and Digital for Health New Zealand, introduced the work underway and the progress made by Health New Zealand to implement AI tools. He noted the potential of some AI tools that may be nearly ready for use, and the challenges presented by the current state of the health IT infrastructure that may delay the adoption of other AI tools. An afternoon highlight was seeing Dr Jade, the Soul Machines digital avatar, interacting with Josephine Jefferson, R&D Liaison and Project Coordinator at Soul Machines. Dr Jade summarised the report and answered questions posed in real time (see video).

Read a summary of the workshop prepared by the Ministry of Health here. For our team, it was exciting to see the level of interest in AI in healthcare and the energy with which the Ministry of Health is considering the next steps.

Last edited 27 May 2024