The Future of Artificial Intelligence in Medicine
Table of Contents
It's hard to escape how much artificial intelligence (AI) will impact our daily lives. The most obvious example is autonomous vehicles, which are sure to make a huge dent in how we live and work. But there are other areas where AI will affect us just as profoundly, such as medicine.
Artificial intelligence (AI) brings many changes to our daily lives.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a broad term that encompasses both a field of study and technology. It refers to the attempt to create machines that can perform tasks traditionally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages. AI systems are trained on data and then use what they have learned to solve problems.
AI has been used in healthcare for decades, but only recently has it started delivering significant value for patients and providers. Implementing AI tools in medicine brings about opportunities for cost savings, improved treatment outcomes, and better quality of life for patients.
It's still early days.
But it's still early days. AI isn't yet capable of replacing doctors, and it's not even close to being able to make decisions on its own. It can help us diagnose diseases and recommend treatment plans, but we're a long way from an artificially intelligent doctor who can prescribe drugs or perform surgery independently.
While AI has the potential to improve patient care—and maybe even reduce costs—the technology is years away from being able to do so in any meaningful way. As things stand now, most AI systems are designed specifically for diagnosing specific types of cancer or predicting which patients may need additional care (based on their vitals).
AI systems may also be used for triaging patients in emergency rooms or helping hospitals manage admissions based on capacity. But these applications do little more than improving efficiency. They don't actually make better decisions about which patients should receive care first; they process them faster by using computer programs that can sort through large amounts of data quickly and efficiently, but not necessarily with emotional intelligence or compassion toward people who need help fast but aren't at risk of dying right away.
There are many exciting developments.
Artificial intelligence is proliferating, and the healthcare industry is no exception. In fact, some hospitals are already using AI to predict patients' health outcomes. These predictions can help doctors make better decisions about diagnosis and treatment plans.
In one study published in JAMA Internal Medicine this year, researchers from Stanford University used machine learning algorithms to predict clinical outcomes with an accuracy rate of 91%. For example, the study found that patients who had been diagnosed with a dangerous heart condition called atrial fibrillation had an 82% chance of experiencing another episode within two years if they did not receive medication for their state or undergo surgery to fix it.
The law is struggling to keep up.
The law is struggling to keep up with the pace of AI innovation. A lawyer may have a lengthy list of requirements for a driverless car, but if one company can make one that doesn't meet all those requirements and another that does, they'll go with the latter. It's hard to write laws that will apply in every scenario when technology evolves at such an incredible rate.
Lawmakers aren't always the best people to make decisions about future technologies like AI (look at how long it took them to realize climate change was real). So instead of predicting what we might need in 20 years and regulating accordingly, why not just update laws as required based on what we're actually doing?
The liability of various actors needs to be settled.
The legal issues that need to be addressed include:
Liability of the manufacturer. This will involve determining whether a particular product was defectively designed and caused harm or if it was used unsafely by the patient (who might have tampered with the device) or by someone else (such as a doctor).
Liability of the programmer. The programmer may have made a mistake in creating software code, leading to harm. In addition, programmers are often responsible for testing software before releasing it for use by patients—and if they fail in their duties, there could be liability issues arising from this failure.
Liability of doctors using artificial intelligence tools. Doctors who utilize artificial intelligence tools may be held liable if there are errors or problems with how such devices are used during medical procedures—for example, if a diagnosis made by machine learning algorithms is wrong and leads to patient injury or death due to misdiagnosis based on erroneous results from those algorithms' analyses of data collected from scans and other sources containing information about people's health conditions that could affect treatment decisions made on behalf them (or against them).
Is AI ready for primetime?
Artificial intelligence is not yet ready for primetime. While AI has many exciting applications in medicine, the technology is still in its infancy and lacks the robustness required for real-world use. For example, to train a neural network to perform a task like diagnosing pneumonia, you need to input hundreds of thousands or even millions of data points from patients presenting with similar symptoms (such as chest X-rays).
This can be difficult because different imaging machines produce varying images; even one radiologist may read an image differently from another (a phenomenon known as interobserver variability). Furthermore, with this much data, it may take months or years before you have enough training examples for your algorithm to become reliable at predicting outcomes.
However, one solution might be using less costly technologies such as smartphones equipped with AI features like facial recognition software and accelerometers that measure gait patterns. These devices could potentially help doctors diagnose serious health problems while they're still at home rather than waiting until they arrive in the office—and there's evidence that it works! A study published last year found that people who used mobile phones along with traditional medical practices had lower mortality rates than those who didn't use them at all."
Keep an eye on where the law and the field need to evolve in concert with robots.
The future of AI in medicine is exciting and full of promise. But as we move forward, we need to keep an eye on where the law and the field need to evolve in concert with robots. The law already has some work left to do if it wants to catch up with technology.
For example, as autonomous vehicles become more common on our roads and sidewalks, there are many questions about how they should be regulated. Other issues like patient privacy also loom large as we continue developing AI-enabled technologies for use at home or in hospitals.
Fortunately, though there may be plenty of legal hurdles still standing between us and widespread adoption of these technologies (for example, liability), there is a reason for optimism about their near future because there are many people who care deeply about advancing them responsibly—and making sure that responsible development happens sooner rather than later will benefit everyone involved.
For all of the promise of artificial intelligence in helping treat diseases, there are still many important questions to be answered: Who's liable if a robot makes a mistake? Will robots be overused to pad billing codes, and will this practice result in more errors? How can we best balance innovation with safety? At this point, it looks like both doctors and the law have some work ahead of them. But as the technology continues to improve, we can look forward to robots becoming more helpful companions than competitors in patient care.