The ethics of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare

WP AdminArtificial intelligence, Digital Healthcare, Healthcare Technology, Mobile Health

You can’t look anywhere these days without hearing about how Artificial Intelligence is going to change the world we live in. We are all being impacted, from retail and call centre operations to legal practices and the medical field.

Though AI MedTech technology is still in its infancy when compared with other health fields, IT technology like telehealth and big data can have an enormously positive impact on health delivery and particularly on access to quality healthcare and the shortage of medical professionals within the health sector. Many organisations, including ours, are interested in how AI can improve the way patients are diagnosed and treated.

AI was created to emulate the human mind and working processes to independently solve problems without needing to be pre-programmed to do so. This means AI can accept new information and learn from it without human intervention. The underlying computing power behind AI allows it to process information exponentially faster than a human can, meaning it can draw medical conclusions that the human mind would never be able to achieve.

Detecting changes, anomalies are useful ways of detecting potential new risks. Abstracting data using AI to quickly understand very large bodies of ever-changing information we can reliably show population-level risks.

The potential for AI in healthcare is vast. The technology can be applied from infrastructure level of the healthcare system all the way through to general practice. We aim to use the technological capability to reveal important breakthroughs in preventive care by picking up the early onset of disease.

Connected health devices are continually being added to the Internet; you walk around every day with a device that tracks your movement or perhaps you have a watch that tracks your pulse. We’re already undertaking R&D under a Callaghan grant to connect iHealth devices to an Internet Browser so you are on your way to using biometrics to detect the risk of stroke, hypertension and heart attack.

In the future, we expect a machine will remember and reference these patterns then apply them to existing data to determine which patterns indicate that a disease is present. Ideally, your device will then refer you to Doctor2Go for a telehealth consultation to confirm diagnosis early.

Although AI brings with it many challenges, it is purely another layer of technology that needs be to added as a new layer of infrastructure. A unique layer that is integrated correctly and monitored responsibly. Aside from the underlying infrastructure costs and medical ethics, just how do we teach an AI to have a philosophical point of view?

Though most healthcare organisations are still several years away from fully realising and benefiting from AI, we need to start thinking about official guidelines and New Zealand regulations to ensure protected health data remains secure, valid, reliable and available and AI solutions are thoroughly tested before implementation.