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Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Doctors Wrestle With A.I. in Patient Care, Citing Lax Oversight

Christina Jewett
The New York Times
Originally posted 30 October 23

In medicine, the cautionary tales about the unintended effects of artificial intelligence are already legendary.

There was the program meant to predict when patients would develop sepsis, a deadly bloodstream infection, that triggered a litany of false alarms. Another, intended to improve follow-up care for the sickest patients, appeared to deepen troubling health disparities.

Wary of such flaws, physicians have kept A.I. working on the sidelines: assisting as a scribe, as a casual second opinion and as a back-office organizer. But the field has gained investment and momentum for uses in medicine and beyond.

Within the Food and Drug Administration, which plays a key role in approving new medical products, A.I. is a hot topic. It is helping to discover new drugs. It could pinpoint unexpected side effects. And it is even being discussed as an aid to staff who are overwhelmed with repetitive, rote tasks.

Yet in one crucial way, the F.D.A.’s role has been subject to sharp criticism: how carefully it vets and describes the programs it approves to help doctors detect everything from tumors to blood clots to collapsed lungs.

“We’re going to have a lot of choices. It’s exciting,” Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, president of the American Medical Association, a leading doctors’ lobbying group, said in an interview. “But if physicians are going to incorporate these things into their workflow, if they’re going to pay for them and if they’re going to use them — we’re going to have to have some confidence that these tools work.”

My summary: 

This article delves into the growing integration of artificial intelligence (A.I.) in patient care, exploring the challenges and concerns raised by doctors regarding the perceived lack of oversight. The medical community is increasingly leveraging A.I. technologies to aid in diagnostics, treatment planning, and patient management. However, physicians express apprehension about the potential risks associated with the use of these technologies, emphasizing the need for comprehensive oversight and regulatory frameworks to ensure patient safety and uphold ethical standards. The article highlights the ongoing debate within the medical profession on striking a balance between harnessing the benefits of A.I. and addressing the associated uncertainties and risks.