Google Health's chief clinical officer envisions AI as a vital support tool

Michael Howell, MD, chief clinical officer of Google Health, said in a Sept. 20 JAMA article that AI is going to be tasked with assisting people in things that take them away from the bedside and away from "the cognitive, procedural or emotional work of being a clinician."

Dr. Howell, who previously spent time as chief quality officer of University of Chicago Medicine, said that is AI's first priority, but that he sees the potential in the technology to help support clinicians in avoiding things like diagnostic anchoring or diagnostic delay.  

"AI has this chance to be vigilant, to not get tired, to be able to look for things that might be buried in the record that you may not have seen," he said. "So I do think that over time we'll see it as an assistive tool." 

But he said that as health systems begin to work with the new technology, it is important to look at its risks. 

"These models create a new kind of risk, which is that if you have a big model and you do some training on private data, that the model can leak the weights across customers because if the model learns, it may memorize something that's over in one area and then leak that out in a response later," he said. "And so it's very important for health systems to work with partners who have the technical ability to isolate that kind of learning."

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