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February 8, 2018

Artificial Intelligence, Its Uses in Health Care, and Compliance

Written by: Compliance blogger


What is Artificial Intelligence?

Machines are dubbed as artificial intelligence (AI) when they are able to carry out tasks in a way that we as humans would consider “smart” or “intelligent.” When AI is used in industry applications, it is often paired with other topics, such as machine learning and cognitive technologies. What is the difference between these terms? From a Forbes article, “machine learning” is a specific application of AI where a machine is given access to a large amount of data and then left to learn and draw conclusions for itself.

“Cognitive technologies,” on the other hand, is a broader term typically used as a catch-all for describing artificial intelligence along with its many varied forms and products. Tata Consulting Services, an independent survey group, found that in 2015 up to 86% of global Healthcare and Life Sciences organizations were using some form of cognitive technology such as AI. They also discovered that these organizations had spent an average of about $38 million on AI and its related products. This is just one indication of how extensive the use of AI has become in the healthcare industry.

Artificial Intelligence in Health Care

Artificial intelligence is capable of expediting medical diagnoses in a number of ways. One AI in particular, at the University of Nottingham in the U.K., was even able to predict cardiac events, such as heart attacks, successfully! JASON, a group of independent government advisors, recently released a report about the many uses of AI in health care. One of their conclusions was particularly interesting regarding mobile phones and apps. They argued that such devices could provide a wealth of information to support healthcare AI applications. For example, in areas where there are many smartphones but few doctors, online doctor’s appointments or information gained through a smartphone app could prove invaluable to keeping communities healthy. However, the dangers of sharing personal health information online and via phone would necessitate the informed consent of participants in such projects.

According to JASON’s report, there is an ongoing evolution of standards for AI in medical applications. In particular, they note that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has been paying attention to both software AS a medical device and software IN a medical device (an important distinction because AI applications can fall into either category). As healthcare organizations move forward, and use more and more cognitive technologies to assist healthcare professionals, it is vitally important that compliance is never forgotten.

Artificial Intelligence and Compliance

Some of the biggest questions raised by artificial intelligence in healthcare settings include liability (who is liable and for what?) and data privacy and security. Because of this, HIPAA compliance is extremely important when a healthcare organization is considering implementing new cognitive technologies. For example, one highly discussed case of AI and healthcare compliance occurred just last year in the U.K. A National Health Service (NHS) hospital trust had begun using a Google AI to collect and track patient data, making it easier for clinicians to see patterns and potential symptoms of acute kidney damage. However, the U.K. Information Commission ruled that the hospitals were not doing enough to protect patient privacy. One of the strongest accusations leveled against them was that they had not given patients enough detail regarding how their data was being collected and used.

Though this is an example from a health system outside the U.S., it is an important situation to keep in mind when looking at applications of AI in health care. Ask questions and always work to ensure that the uses of cognitive technology adhere to standards of compliance, privacy, and security. As more cognitive technologies are employed in the healthcare industry, make sure that your HIPAA Compliance Training is up to date so that you are able to monitor whether or not privacy and security regulations are being followed.


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