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Generative AI’s Potential in Healthcare Questioned

ByHuey Yee Ong

Apr 21, 2024
Generative AI's Potential in Healthcare Questioned

Generative AI’s Potential in Healthcare Questioned

Generative AI, a rapidly advancing technology capable of generating and analyzing diverse data formats such as images, texts, and videos, is progressively making inroads into the healthcare sector.

This technological wave is being propelled by major technology companies, including Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, as well as numerous startups, all aiming to transform healthcare operations and patient experiences. However, despite the significant investments and the promising applications, the readiness of generative AI for broad deployment in healthcare remains a contentious issue among experts and consumers alike.

Google Cloud is working with Highmark Health to tailor patient intake processes using generative AI, while Amazon’s AWS is exploring the technology to dissect medical databases for “social determinants of health”. Similarly, Microsoft Azure is developing a system for the Providence healthcare network to categorize patient communications automatically.

Startups like Ambience Healthcare, Nabla, and Abridge are also notable participants, each offering innovative solutions aimed at enhancing clinical and administrative healthcare functions:

  • Ambience Healthcare is developing a generative AI app for clinicians.
  • Nabla offers an ambient AI assistant for healthcare practitioners.
  • Abridge creates analytics tools for medical documentation.

Public and Expert Opinions on Generative AI

Despite these developments, a Deloitte survey reveals a divided public opinion: only about 53% of U.S. consumers believe generative AI might enhance healthcare accessibility and reduce wait times. The survey also indicated skepticism regarding the technology’s ability to make healthcare more affordable.

Additionally, Andrew Borkowski from the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network voices a critical perspective, highlighting the technology’s significant limitations, such as its inadequate handling of complex medical queries and emergencies.

The concerns are not unfounded.

Research, including a study in JAMA Pediatrics, demonstrates high error rates in disease diagnosis by generative AI systems like ChatGPT. Moreover, a Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center study found frequent inaccuracies in diagnostic suggestions provided by GPT-4. These issues are compounded in routine medical administrative tasks, where generative AI has shown a 35% failure rate in the MedAlign benchmark tests.

Challenges in Generative AI Deployment

Critics like Jan Egger from the University of Duisburg-Essen argue that generative AI in healthcare should operate under stringent physician supervision to mitigate risks of incorrect medical guidance. The technology has also faced scrutiny for perpetuating stereotypes, as highlighted in a Stanford Medicine study where generative AI reinforced erroneous biological distinctions between different racial groups.

Nevertheless, there are areas of healthcare where generative AI shows promise. The technology has proven beneficial in medical imaging, with innovations like the CoDoC system significantly optimizing diagnostic processes. Further, systems like Panda have demonstrated high accuracy in detecting pancreatic lesions in X-rays, highlighting potential life-saving applications.

The Future of Generative AI in Healthcare

Despite the optimistic views of some researchers and the technical strides made, significant challenges remain.

Andrew Borkowski emphasizes the gravity of privacy, security, and compliance concerns associated with using generative AI in sensitive medical contexts. The evolving regulatory and legal landscape further complicates the deployment of generative AI in healthcare, raising critical questions about liability and data protection.

The World Health Organization has recently intervened, issuing guidelines advocating for rigorous scientific validation and robust human oversight before these technologies can be safely integrated into healthcare practices. These guidelines aim to ensure that generative AI tools undergo thorough testing and evaluation to prevent potential harms and enhance patient safety.

In summary, while generative AI holds considerable potential to revolutionize healthcare, the technology is still in its nascent stages with substantial hurdles to overcome. Stakeholders must address the valid concerns of reliability, safety, and ethical use before generative AI can be universally adopted in healthcare settings. As the field progresses, it will be crucial to balance innovation with caution to safeguard patient interests and trust in the healthcare system.


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Featured Image courtesy of everythingpossible/Getty Images

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

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