Working together, improving lives

March 2023

Using Artificial Intelligence In Healthcare: Is It Good Or Bad?

AI (or Artificial Intelligence) is a term used to describe a machine or application which simulates our own human intelligence. Although in its infancy, many believe artificial intelligence will mature over time and obtain human characteristics such as the ability to make decisions based on choice, compose ethical considerations and have the capacity to make judgement. We’re hearing a lot about AI recently, as our world becomes ever-connected, and we already rely on some smart devices to do simple tasks on our behalf. Take, for example, Amazon’s Alexa, which has the ability not only to take commands and provide results instantaneously, but also acknowledge our personal preferences and recommend new things we might enjoy.

All this talk of technology begs the question, can Artificial Intelligence be adapted into a Healthcare associated environment? - Can we better the lives of those receiving care, or does the industry require the likes of a Support Worker or Healthcare Assistant in order to carry out tasks such as personal care or administration. Let’s weigh up the arguments for and against in this edition of the Dean Healthcare blog.

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Dr Aldo Faisal, who leads Imperial College of London’s UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in AI for Healthcare believes “This [AI] will improve the cost of care and improve outcomes, simply because things will happen earlier, faster and better”. It could be argued that artificial intelligence will certainly improve the speed of outcomes, for example a patient test results. This is because it functions on algorithms and creating the most accurate data, thus eliminating the potential for human error. However, there is a lack of AI standardisation at present, which can make it difficult to compare results and draw data from other sources. Similarly, systems that rely on data are frequented by security leaks and power outages which could pose a greater threat to the accuracy of results or diagnoses. There are also major ethical concerns around ‘social-bias’ because the algorithms used by artificial intelligence may not be representative of a population or group of people, leading to further inaccuracies.

The government announced this month that nine of the most promising artificial intelligence healthcare technologies will receive nearly £16 million in government funding to accelerate research.

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The use of artificial intelligence in Healthcare poses additional ethical drawbacks too. It’s implementation in care home settings might assist residents, for example by entertaining them with music or acting as someone to talk to, and staff members, through managing and storing medical records, but it cannot replace healthcare assistants or support workers entirely. Firstly, AI has not yet learnt to be sentient, i.e. understand empathy. It lacks a fundamental requirement of the healthcare industry – a team of workers who have an awareness of sensitivity, personal relationships and personal preferences. In addition to this, the resident’s thoughts also need to be taken into consideration. - Would they be more comfortable speaking with a human about their needs when compared to a computer or device which lacks emotion?

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Ethics goes even further than resident-worker relations. Artificial Intelligence has the power to disrupt the industry socio-economically as well. Because it can do most monotonous human tasks, such as clinical documentation or managing medical records, it poses a risk of mass-unemployment as some roles can be more easily replaced by AI in order to cut costs and reduce human error. It presents an ongoing issue to our society that we still haven’t found an answer to – whether implementing modern technology should substitute the need for humans in the workplace.

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There is no question of a doubt that artificial intelligence has the potential to improve healthcare standards and resident wellbeing. However, it shouldn’t necessarily be something we rely on wholly in an effort to fix problems or make our lives easier and more stress-free, because this could lead to worsening issues. We asked the team at Dean Healthcare about their views on implementing artificial intelligence in Healthcare. Here’s what they had to say:

"We already see the impact in our sector of the industry with people using apps to co-ordinate their work in health and social care, we have heard from so many people who say that the fundamental drive and reasons behind caring for others are being whisked away by over-use of technology."

"I think incorporating AI into the healthcare industry is a great idea, but while it can certainly assist with some tasks – like administration – I do worry it lacks that human-ness that is so unique to care. I think the technology, we currently have, like Siri or Alexa for example, do enough to strike a balance between the two."

Where do you stand on the debate? Do you think we’ll be seeing more artificial intelligence in the workspace soon? Let us know your thoughts!