The American Medical Association is weighing in on the potential of what it is calling “augmented intelligence” in fields such as radiology and the practice of medicine by clinicians.

The nation’s largest professional association for medical professionals issued its first policy addressing augmented intelligence at its annual meeting last week, adopting broad recommendations for health and technology stakeholders.

The AMA action cites both the potential of innovation and concern about the role it will play in the practice of medicine and affect patients in the near future.

“As technology continues to advance and evolve, we have a unique opportunity to ensure that augmented intelligence is used to benefit patients, physicians and the broad healthcare community,” says Jesse Ehrenfeld, MD, one of the AMA’s board members.

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The technology can assist radiologists, physicians and other medical professionals in making decisions that result in better and more appropriate use of medical care, Ehrenfeld adds.

“Combining AI methods and systems with an irreplaceable human clinician can advance the delivery of care in a way that outperforms what either can do alone,” he says. “But we must address challenges in the design, evaluation and implementation, as this technology is increasingly integrated into physicians’ delivery of care to patients.”

AMA’s policy says the group will:

• Leverage its ongoing engagement in digital health and other priority areas for improving patient outcomes and physicians’ professional satisfaction to help set priorities for the use of AI in healthcare.

• Identify opportunities to integrate the perspective of practicing physicians into the development, design, validation and implementation of AI in healthcare.

• Promote development of thoughtfully designed, high-quality, clinically validated healthcare AI, which should conform to user-centered design practices, is transparent, conforms to leading standards to engender reproducibility, identifies and avoids bias and avoids introducing healthcare disparities, and safeguards individuals’ privacy and data security.

• Encourage education for patients, physicians, medical students and other professionals to inform others of the promise and limitations of healthcare AI.

• Explore the legal implications of healthcare AI, such as issues of intellectual property, and advocate for “appropriate professional and governmental oversight.”

In recent years, the AMA has become more active in speaking out and leading the discussion for how healthcare IT and digital health technology is being incorporated into medical practice. Executives of the group say it’s crucial that AI be effectively integrated into the way physicians practice medicine.

A recent AMA survey of physicians about barriers to adoption of digital health technologies suggests that physicians are most receptive to digital health tools they believe can be integrated smoothly into their current practice, will improve care and will enhance patient-physician relationships. Earlier AMA research into physician professional satisfaction found that frustrations with electronic health records (EHRs), especially usability issues, were a major source of dissatisfaction in physicians’ professional lives.

“To reap the benefits for patient care, physicians must have the skills to work comfortably with healthcare AI. Just as working effectively with EHRs is now part of training for medical students and residents, educating physicians to work effectively with AI systems—or more narrowly, the AI algorithms that can inform clinical care decisions—will be critical to the future of AI in healthcare,” Ehrenfeld says.

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