AI’s biggest challenge will be getting along with physicians

Even with AI's diagnostic power, human clinical judgments will reign supreme.

As artificial intelligence becomes more powerful and more ingrained in healthcare, the new technology will have to find ways to fit into an industry that has long relied on human judgment.

Venture capitalists should be particularly mindful of this intensifying dynamic that will influence AI adoption in the clinical environment, wrote Kapila Ratnam, a partner at NewSpring Capital, in an op-ed for MedCity News.

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AI has already begun making inroads into the healthcare industry and many envision the technology working alongside physicians to diagnose diseases earlier and with greater accuracy. A recent study showed AI can detect skin cancer as well as a board-certified dermatologist, and some experts have said radiologists and pathologists should merge into one specialty to make room for machine learning.

At the same time, AI experts have pointed out that the technology’s ability to mimic human learning also makes its diagnostic power difficult to fully understand.

Ratnam noted that AI has both short-term and long-term promise. Machine learning could streamline operational tasks like inventory management and provide a needed boost to healthcare cybersecurity defenses.  

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But AI adoption gets a little stickier on the clinical side, despite early indications it could improve care coordination, personalize patient care and improve physician decision-making. Physicians are already feeling the squeeze from patients who are equipped with more data and information about their health, and AI could apply more pressure.

“In both cases, the doctor still has to be the one to assess the information provided and deliver the appropriate care, which sometimes might differ from what the AI technology recommends,” Ratnam wrote, adding that "human judgment is a lot more valuable than any insights AI can provide."