By Edward Maule, Chief Information Officer and Chief Information Security Officer at Advocare, LLC
Artificial intelligence (AI) has made significant advancements in the healthcare sector, and its potential is almost unlimited. AI-powered systems can analyze vast amounts of medical data, detect patterns, and offer insights that can help healthcare professionals make more informed decisions. However, as with any technology, there are strengths and vulnerabilities associated with AI in healthcare, particularly in relation to the protection of personal health information (PHI).
Strengths of AI Applications in Healthcare:
- Diagnosis and Treatment:
AI applications can be used to analyze patient data and generate accurate diagnoses, allowing healthcare professionals to provide more effective treatments. AI can also assist in monitoring patient progress and predicting outcomes, allowing healthcare professionals to adjust treatments accordingly.
- Precision Medicine:
AI can help identify genetic markers and personalized treatments that are tailored to individual patients, improving the accuracy and effectiveness of treatments.
- Resource Optimization:
AI can help healthcare organizations optimize their resources by identifying inefficiencies in processes and procedures, allowing them to allocate resources more effectively and efficiently.
- Remote Monitoring:
AI applications can be used to monitor patients remotely, providing healthcare professionals with real-time information about a patient’s condition, allowing them to respond to emergencies quickly.
Finally, AI has the potential to increase efficiency in healthcare delivery. By automating routine tasks, such as data entry and administrative duties, healthcare providers can focus on patient care, leading to improved patient satisfaction and outcomes.
Vulnerabilities of AI Applications in Healthcare:
AI applications in healthcare require access to large amounts of personal health information, making them vulnerable to cyber-attacks and data breaches. This can lead to sensitive medical information being leaked or stolen, potentially putting patients at risk.
AI applications can be biased based on the data they are trained on. If the data used to train the AI is biased, this can lead to inaccurate or unfair recommendations and treatments.
Healthcare professionals may become over-reliant on AI applications, leading to reduced critical thinking and judgment. This can lead to misdiagnosis and ineffective treatments.
- Lack of Regulation:
Currently, there are no clear regulations or guidelines for the use of AI in healthcare. This can lead to inconsistencies in how AI applications are used and a lack of accountability.
Implications for PHI and the Doctor-Patient Relationship:
AI applications require access to personal health information, raising concerns about patient privacy. Patients may be hesitant to share sensitive medical information if they are unsure of how it will be used or who will have access to it.
There is a concern around the potential for AI to violate patient privacy. As AI algorithms are often trained on sensitive patient data, there is a risk that the algorithms could be used to identify individual patients, even if the data has been de-identified.
The use of AI in healthcare raises important questions around the confidentiality of the doctor-patient relationship. As AI requires vast amounts of patient data to operate effectively, patients may be hesitant to share sensitive information with their healthcare providers. This could lead to patients withholding important information, which could negatively impact their care.
There is also a risk that AI could be used to identify individual patients, even if the data has been de-identified. This could lead to a breach of patient privacy and a violation of the doctor-patient relationship.
To address these concerns, healthcare providers must ensure that they have robust data security measures in place. This includes using encryption to protect patient data, implementing access controls to limit who can access patient data, and ensuring that all employees are trained on data security best practices.
Healthcare providers must also be transparent with patients about how their data will be used. Patients must be informed about how their data will be collected, stored, and used, and they must have the opportunity to opt-out of data sharing if they so choose.
Healthcare providers must always ensure that they are using unbiased AI algorithms. This includes ensuring that the data used to train the algorithms is diverse and representative of the patient population, and regularly monitoring the output of the algorithms for bias.
The use of AI in healthcare has many strengths, including the ability to analyze vast amounts of patient data quickly and accurately, improve patient outcomes, and increase efficiency in healthcare delivery. However, there are also vulnerabilities that must be addressed, such as the security of patient data, the potential for bias, and the risk of violating patient privacy. To address these concerns, healthcare providers must ensure that they have robust data security measures in place, be transparent with patients about data usage, and ensure unbiased AI algorithms. By doing so, the potential benefits of AI in healthcare can be realized while protecting the confidentiality of the doctor-patient relationship and the privacy of patient health information.
About the Author
Ed is IT Professional with over 10 years of experience leading teams, launching new technologies and managing complex IT projects. Throughout his career, Ed has overseen datacenter operations, corporate helpdesks, networks, data storage and cloud applications, for clinical, business and academic systems.
At Advocare, Ed leads an Information Services Department serving over 2,500 employees and 600+ healthcare providers. His team is responsible for the delivery of all IT services to nearly 200 Advocare Care Center offices. One of Ed’s key initiatives includes the implementation of electronic health record (EHR) platform that allows Advocate patients to access their healthcare records via a secure internet and mobile app.
Prior to Advocate, Ed held various IT roles with Jefferson University Hospital and Kennedy Health. Ed holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Saint Joseph’s University, including certification in the University’s Leadership Development Program. He also has a Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology from Thomas Edison State University. He maintains the Project Management Professional certification and is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional.