A panel of physicians and leaders in the field expressed excitement about the potential benefits of AI for patients. They also said solutions must be developed with patients and health equity in mind.
Many have applauded the potential of artificial intelligence to transform healthcare.
Michael Howell, Google’s chief clinical officer and deputy chief health officer, says, “It’s hard to imagine a technology that’s more hyped than AI.”
Despite this, Stephen Parodi, executive vice president of the Permanente Federation, says, “The widespread deployment of AI in healthcare is still in its infancy.”
Nevertheless, many predict significant growth in the spread of AI in medicine in the near future.
During an hour-long forum hosted by The Permanente Federation on Monday, healthcare leaders, all physicians, evaluated the possibilities of AI, the keys to success and expectations for its future use.
Even at a forum where leaders spoke about potential challenges, including developing technology with patients in mind and the urgent need to focus on equity, attendees spoke with enthusiasm, even excitement, about the growing role of artificial intelligence in of medicine.
It’s appropriate to bring a healthy dose of skepticism and ask questions about the potential of artificial intelligence in healthcare, Howell said.
However, Howell also said he expects, “AI will do things we didn’t think was possible.”previous interventions
Edward Lee, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer of The Permanente Federation, spoke about how AI is being used throughout Kaiser Permanente’s system.
At Kaiser Permanente, researchers have used AI to examine retinal images of patients with diabetes to potentially determine whether patients are more likely to lose their vision, Lee said.
Additionally, Kaiser Permanente uses AI-powered models to analyze which patients in hospitals are at higher risk of deterioration or may require critical care. “It gives us the opportunity to intervene before patients get sick,” Lee said.
Hundreds of patients were likely saved, he said, “and that’s a conservative estimate.”
The system uses AI to analyze emails to ensure they reach the right member of the care team. “This helps our patients get timely answers to their health problems,” Lee said.
John Halamka, president of the Mayo Clinic Platform, said he expects to see artificial intelligence integrated into electronic medical record workflows within the next six quarters.
The Mayo Clinic is increasingly using AI in research. Mayo Clinic researchers have studied the use of artificial intelligence to identify pregnant patients who are at risk for complications and patients who are more likely to have a stroke.
When asked when AI will become more mainstream, Halamka quoted author William Gibson as saying, “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.”
“I believe the perfect storm for innovation requires good enough technology, policies that enable it, and cultural shifts that create a sense of urgency,” Halamka said.
Patients have higher expectations of healthcare, and that will help expand the use of AI in medicine, panellists said. “The cultural demands of our patients will drive us forward,” added Halamka.
Google Health uses artificial intelligence to provide better technology to care teams and also to reach consumers when they search for health information online, leading them to relevant and accurate results and avoiding misinformation, Howell said. The tech giant also uses AI in a community context, he said, for better forecasting of flood hazards, for example.
Vivian Lee, President of Healthcare Platforms at Verily, a sister company of Google, spoke about using AI algorithms to identify patients at higher risk of high blood pressure, substance use or a longer hospital stay. She said the goal is to make this information “available to clinicians to make this data more actionable.”
Artificial intelligence also offers opportunities to engage patients in different ways, and that goes beyond just personalized medicine, Vivian Lee said. With AI, she said, the question is, “How do we get to precise health and precise engagement?”
“I truly believe that the advances we are making now will allow us to do personalized care at scale,” said Vivian Lee.
During the forum, participants, including the audience, expressed their views on where AI has the greatest potential to improve healthcare. Most said it would be using artificial intelligence to predict potential health risks.
“I think the thing about risk prediction is that it can’t just affect individual patients … it can affect entire populations, entire communities,” Edward Lee said. “We can make a positive contribution to the health of many, many patients.”
Focus on health equity
While touting the promise of AI, panelists also said health systems aiming to use artificial intelligence need to focus on eliminating health inequalities.
“There is strong evidence that unfair care simply isn’t of high quality,” Howell said.
“Everyone should be able to take full advantage of AI… We should work systematically to make that happen.”
Researchers are using artificial intelligence to predict risk in patients, but as Howell noted, the problem is that some data are missing when it comes to patients from underrepresented communities. In a way, disparities can be burned into the data being analyzed.
Vivian Lee shared similar concerns. “We have to be mindful of prejudice and health equity,” she said.
Fatima Paruk, Salesforce’s chief health officer and senior vice president, said AI can be both a enabler and a hindrance. But she said, “I think we can provide fairer care.”
AI’s technology in and of itself is just so useful, said Edward Lee.
“Combined with expertise, you can really change the lives of patients,” he said.
Panel members said they were hopeful in part because much of the research in AI and new artificial intelligence is being developed by healthcare workers.
Paruk pointed to the potential of AI combined with remote patient monitoring to help older patients potentially live at home longer. Finally, healthcare systems could use data to get a sense of when these older patients might need more support.
It would also be a boon to many in the “sandwich generation” who are caring for their children as well as aging parents. “There’s a lot of potential there,” she says.
While panel members noted similar predictions about reducing the demands on physicians through electronic medical records, Paruk and others said AI could reduce burnout among clinicians.
But ultimately, panellists were most excited about how artificial intelligence could transform patient care.
“I’m incredibly hopeful for the future,” said Paruk.