Thanks to science fiction and popular media, we all have developed different expectations of artificial intelligence (AI) and what it can do. Nevertheless, from manufacturing to modern automobiles, AI did assist in expediting processes and cutting down on resources. In the medical industry, although patients benefit immensely from the added efficiency, they very rarely think about the role AI plays and may even be reluctant to accept major technological innovations. Previously, AIMed discussed how patients and their families said trust and assurance remained the cornersteon of their relationship with their doctors. They remain reticent that technology could function in the same way since this trust has been built over time.
These people believe human care providers reign supreme as they are fully aware of patients’ unique needs and idiosyncrasies, and can attend to them when needed. A paper in the Journal of Consumer Research even maintained that patients should pay less for AI-powered healthcare, considering their prefernce for more traditional and established doctors. Besides, in spite of all the excitement surrounding remote health monitoring devices, a post had underlined some of the challenges these gadgets needs to iron out: from accuracy to liability, data privacy, and security; these are roadblocks in patients learning to trust machines.
AI’s role in a number of fields is expansive. In financial institutions, AI provides personalized service and chatbots to customers who need immediate responses. This also benefits banks that need assistance in reviewing data to avoide fruad. Similarly, in retail, AI is beneficial for customer support as the technology helps retail owners to automate tasks and keep track of their revenue more efficiently. In addition, AI also helps in inventory, as well as being able to identify trends and locate the demand for their products. In telecommunication, AI’s impact follows the same pattern: greater productivity, customer service, data analysis, and personalized recommendations.
Why medicine is different?
What is common in these industries is AI’s role as a middleman that mediates between the client and the business. They mostly help in driving income for the industries, while their effect on customers comes as more of collateral. In medicine and healthcare, particularly in doctor-patient care, there is no need for a middleman. What pateitns need is direct contact and communiaction with their doctors, whose empathy and understanding surpasses any machine.
Bear in mind patients’ trust is affected by their own understanding of AI technology. Moreover, the algorithms and analytics that are characteristics of AI are generally unable to account for the many nuances between the preferences and personalities of patients. Instead, AI in healthcare relies on things that can be put to paper – patient demographics, genetic composition, family history, medical records, and disease progression – in order to suggest the most suitable therapy for each patient.
In layman’s term
Biomedical informatics researcher Issac Kohane at Harvard Medical School said for patients to understand how AI technology can mitigate the shortcomings of the healthcare system, the approach must be non-Silicon Valley in nature. It should be communicated in the language that patients understand. Patients need to know that htis technology will supplement their healthcare provider, and will not replace them entirely. AI will be a tool used by human doctors to be more present and better at providing overall quality of care.
The first step in making patients understand the wonders that AI could do for them is for industry professionals to become more transparent about what exactly this technology is capable of. Patients must have informed consent in participating in medical trials, knowing how they could play a role in making AI safer and more effecitve. They must also be told – in no uncertain terms – what information is being collected from them and how it is being used, particularly given the extreme sensitivity of medical information. The healthcare industry needs to communicate these things clearly, and cannot merely assume that the approach taken by other industries will work for them. Doctor-patient trust is built through transparency, and this has to factor in when adding AI into the equation.
Moreover, healthcare professionals themselves must learn to treat AI as a form of clinical decision support and remember no algorithm or automated process can ever replace empathy and understanding. Studies have shown “to be treated as an individual” is one of the most important factors leading to satisfaction for patients. Patients must know and feel that they are more than just numbers on a chart or scans on a screen. They will be treated as people with their individual personalities and prefernces recognized. Something which may see as unnecessary or even intrusive in other industries, but in medicine, it’s something that cannot be discounted.
Joanna Barber is a medtech who is currently working on clinical trials experimenting on AI in medicine. When she’s not busy in the lab, she writes articles for the medical community.