The Potential Risks of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare has been praised for its potential, but it has also been the center of heated controversy. AI presents a new set of challenges around data privacy and security, and these challenges are compounded by the fact that most algorithms need access to large data sets for training and validation. The potential risks of AI in healthcare include data breaches, incorrect recommendations, and bias in algorithms. Data breaches are one of the biggest risks associated with AI in healthcare.

As healthcare providers create, receive, store, and transmit sensitive patient data, they become targets for cybercriminals. If an AI system recommends the wrong medication for a patient or fails to detect a tumor on a radiological scan, the patient could be injured. Injuries caused by AI errors may be different from those caused by human error, as patients and providers may react differently to them. Furthermore, if AI systems become widespread, an underlying problem in an AI system could result in injuries to thousands of patients.

AI algorithms are also susceptible to making assumptions if the data with which they are trained is biased towards one perspective or another. This can lead to incorrect recommendations or decisions that could have serious consequences for patients. To address this issue, investment in infrastructure to obtain high-quality, representative data is needed. Collaborative oversight by the Food and Drug Administration and other health actors is also necessary.

Balancing the risks and rewards of AI in healthcare will require a collaborative effort by technology developers, regulators, end users, and consumers. Microsoft and Google have both provided support to The Brookings Institution's artificial intelligence and emerging technology (AIET) initiative to help identify key governance and regulatory issues related to AI and propose policy solutions to address the complex challenges associated with emerging technologies. The Canadian Association of Radiologists has also released a white paper on ethical and legal issues related to artificial intelligence in radiology. It is an exciting time for healthcare as advances in artificial intelligence continue to mature.

However, it is important to consider the potential risks associated with AI in order to ensure that patients are protected from harm. Investment in infrastructure, collaborative oversight by health actors, and changes in medical education will all be necessary to ensure that AI is used safely and responsibly.

Deanna Trueman
Deanna Trueman

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