August 23, 2023

In The News: Hospital Bosses Love AI. Doctors and Nurses Are Worried.

The Washington Post has a story on artificial intelligence and its perceived transformational promise in healthcare. The article features anecdotes from Mount Sinai hospital, one of a number of hospitals that is investing millions into AI software and education efforts. Research into AI’s ability to determine breast cancer from mammograms, and transcription and translate generative tools for paperwork or interaction are signals for proponents to declare AI the future of medicine.

The tension, notes the article, arises in those on the front line, human doctors and nurses say the technology has a cost to their professions. They question whether AI can do the job of a doctor or a nurse, and also worry what may happen should AI make a wrong diagnosis, reveal sensitive patient information, as well as how administrators or insurance providers may use the abilities of AI to cut staff numbers or hours to address efficiency.

AI has been present in medicine for decades. As it has advanced from spotting trends in data to predictive measures, however, it has drawn closer to approximating actual patient care. At Mount Sinai Hospital, they are deploying predictive software to identify patients at risk of issues such as sepsis or falling, radiologists are using AI similar to the previously mentioned breast cancer analysis, and nutritionists are using it AI to flag malnourishment.

The story quotes from several sides interested in AI’s impact on healthcare, including nursing organizations, venture capitalists, administrators, and elected officials. All groups recognize the potential to improve care and outcomes, though some express concerns on how it could undermine trust in medical professionals and healthcare, in general. A survey of physicians by Duke University voiced concerns AI could exacerbate bias already present in medical care, something humans have put great efforts into addressing.

The story concludes by hearing from a patient. When asked if she would prefer to be treated by AI or a doctor, the patient replied, “There is something that technology can never do, and that is be human.”

PIDS member and co-chair of the Digital Health Subcommittee, Steve Thacker, commented on the story.
“Artificial Intelligence-based strategies to support clinicians have gained tremendous momentum with the shared hope and promise to truly transform healthcare. As Pediatric Infectious Disease clinicians, we continue to be tasked with ever-growing amounts of data and diagnostic complexities. AI-informed systems may well offer us meaningful patient-centered clinical decision support in settings of diagnostic uncertainty, in addition to supporting more efficient and comprehensive capture of the complexity of the care we provide. Through rigorous study, regulation and physician-engaged oversight we may soon see delivery on this transformative promise.”

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