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AMA Urges “Thoughtfully Designed” Artificial Intelligence for Healthcare

A policy statement from the American Medical Association encourages the industry to keep user-centered designed in mind as explores artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence in healthcare

Source: American Medical Association

By Jennifer Bresnick

- The American Medical Association (AMA) has released a policy statement that takes a favorable view towards artificial intelligence in healthcare – as long as the emerging category of tools and solutions can be carefully designed, user-friendly, and safe for patient care.

Artificial intelligence, or “augmented intelligence,” as the AMA chooses to call it, brings both promises and concerns as it filters into the patient care environment.

Questions remain about how providers and patients will integrate algorithms driven by machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, and other methods into the care process.

Healthcare organizations, professional societies, and other stakeholders must take the lead in ensuring that patient safety, care quality, and clinical productivity do not suffer when AI tools are introduced.

“As technology continues to advance and evolve, we have a unique opportunity to ensure that augmented intelligence is used to benefit patients, physicians, and the broad health care community,” said AMA Board Member Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH.

“Combining AI methods and systems with an irreplaceable human clinician can advance the delivery of care in a way that outperforms what either can do alone. But we must forthrightly address challenges in the design, evaluation and implementation as this technology is increasingly integrated into physicians’ delivery of care to patients.”

The AMA will use its prominent position in the industry to engage stakeholders and set priorities for AI as it evolves, the policy says.  The society will also work to educate members, patients, and other professionals about the limitations and possibilities inherent in this category of analytics tool.

Leaders will work to integrate the perspectives of practicing physicians into issues surrounding the design, validation, and deployment of AI while promoting the development of “thoughtfully designed, high-quality, clinically validated healthcare AI.”

AI tools must strive to meet several key criteria, including being transparent, standards-based, and free from bias.  Algorithms must also leverage best practices in user-centered design while maintaining stringent levels of privacy and security.

While the policy statement is generally positive, the AMA cautioned the industry against repeating some of the same design and implementation mistakes that have plagued the EHR adoption process. 

Citing previous research that indicates ongoing dissatisfaction with EHRs and high levels of burnout, the AMA stresses that AI tools must add value to the physician experience in addition to improving patient care.

“To reap the benefits for patient care, physicians must have the skills to work comfortably with health care AI. Just as working effectively with EHRs is now part of training for medical students and residents, educating physicians to work effectively with AI systems, or more narrowly, the AI algorithms that can inform clinical care decisions, will be critical to the future of AI in health care,” Ehrenfeld said.

The statement may be the AMA’s first policy declaration on the issue of AI, but it is unlikely to be the last time the prominent organization voices an opinion on augmented decision-making tools.  Artificial intelligence is just starting to gain traction in the healthcare industry, and will no doubt raise a number of unforeseen regulatory, ethical, and privacy issues as it permeates through the care continuum.


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