Is AI good or bad for medicine? 4 key opinions

Health systems across the country are applying artificial intelligence in a wide array of clinical and operational applications.

For example, Michigan Medicine has applied AI to more precise brain tumor diagnosis and Google recently published a study that determined its AI-driven program to diagnose breast cancer was as accurate, or more accurate, than radiologists. Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic also announced last September that it was partnering with Google to deepen its AI capabilities over the next 10 years, among other projects.

But there are still questions about whether AI should be trusted with patient care. Here, four leaders in health IT answer the question: is AI good or bad for medicine?

B.J. Moore. CIO of Providence (Renton, Wash.): Overall AI will be good for medicine, as it will provide a level of precision and augmentation to doctors that can only be provided by advanced computer cognitive capabilities. In the early stages of AI, it will be an augmenting capability to doctors. As the technology improves and matures, it will be able to make diagnosis as good or better than clinicians across a broad spectrum of clinical scenarios. I believe this will be empowering to doctors, freeing them up for more complex scenarios that only a human clinician can solve, while improving the accuracy of diagnosis for the more common diagnostic scenarios

Theodoros Zanos, PhD. Head of the Neural and Data Science Lab, Assistant Professor at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at Northwell Health (New Hyde Park, N.Y.): In my opinion, if performed properly and carefully, it is no doubt incredibly good for medicine and the public. I don't believe that physicians and nurses can be replaced by algorithms any time soon but they can be tremendously assisted by these methods so they can focus more on the irreplaceable aspects of their work, like human interaction.

For these algorithms to properly work, they need to be an integral part of the process of training, evaluating and using them, so they have a huge role to play in these advances. Finally, healthcare providers, with their unique experience, can guide the engineers and computer scientists that create these algorithms to solve problems that actually exist and could truly benefit from an AI-based solution. This is why it's very important for physicians and nurses to embrace this progress and become part of it so the field can advance in faster and proper ways.

Mark Hoffman, PhD. Clinical Research Information Officer at Children's Mercy Kansas City: AI enhanced diagnostics has significant potential to improve medicine as long as ethical, technical and scientific concerns are consistently addressed. An example that I give is that you can train an AI algorithm to detect pneumonia. Or to detect breast cancer. But a radiologist will look for everything and brings a nuanced perspective.

Sanket Shah. Clinical Assistant Professor of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago: Without a doubt a good thing for population health. Any technology resulting in improved accuracy and efficiency gives providers and patients the opportunity to achieve the best possible outcomes. We still have a long way to go in terms of total integration or replacement as more data and trials need to be examined. I believe there will always be a need for some type of human evaluation or second opinion, but how often we call upon this secondary check and balance could be drastically minimized over time.

For a deeper dive, check out this article: How AI is changing medicine, the role of physicians.


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