How healthcare's view of AI has shifted

Since the launch of ChatGPT in 2023, generative artificial intelligence has gathered buzz, with many healthcare workers, leaders and staff expressing concerns about using "unregulated" technology. But has this sentiment changed?

"I think in the last year, I don't hear as much of the fear-based discussion," Sarah Pletcher, MD, vice president and executive medical director of strategic innovation at Houston Methodist, told Becker's. "In a year, it's gone from this thing that people don't really understand and are afraid of to something that people have more familiarity and comfort with."

Dr. Pletcher's sentiment parallels an April 16 survey from Wolters Kluwer. The survey of 100 U.S. physicians found that 40% are prepared to use generative AI during patient interactions at the point of care. 

Additionally, 68% of physicians said they have had a change of opinion over the last year and are now inclined to believe that generative AI would be beneficial for healthcare.

Despite this, there is still concern surrounding regulation and use of artificial intelligence in the healthcare industry. 

On April 22, hundreds of nurses gathered to protest the use of AI at Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente. The California Nurses Association held a demonstration at Kaiser Permanente's San Francisco Medical Center, chanting "AI has got to go!" and "Trust Nurses Not AI."

The association is requesting the involvement of nurses and union members at "every stage" of the decision-making process concerning the implementation of AI and other data-centric technologies within Kaiser Permanente and other health systems.

Healthcare leaders are also expressing concerns to Congress about the use of AI. 

Keith Dreyer, PhD, chief data science officer of Somerville, Mass.-based Mass General Brigham, went to Capitol Hill in April to lobby lawmakers for more oversight of AI in healthcare.

"It needs quite a bit of oversight because, if you build these systems wrong, they will make mistakes," he told Politico. "And if you don't monitor these systems, they might even start out good, but they can turn bad."

Dr. Pletcher hinted at the lack of education still being an issue with AI in healthcare.

"I still think that we haven't done a great job of distilling it down to educational points so that anyone can come up to speed on what it is," she said. "What do we mean? What are the different kinds? And how do those examples fit into healthcare?"

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