The future of medicine is artificial
A new legal review article from Temple University Fox School of Business faculty member Samuel Hodge Jr. outlines how AI is vastly changing the world of medicine and bringing with it some very major legal implications.
In 1895, the X-ray was invented. Then, nearly 100 years later, in 1970, came the invention of the MRI. Both milestones are considered two of the most important breakthroughs in modern medicine.
According to Samuel Hodge Jr., the third one is already here. The problem is that very few people are even aware of it.
“Artificial intelligence (AI) is the future of medicine,” said Hodge, a risk, actuarial sciences and legal studies professor at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. “Even though it is greatly influencing the medical field, COVID-19, monkeypox and all other similar things have dominated the news cycle, so AI in medicine has flown under the radar. But the technology is changing the face of medicine, and the healthcare field will never be the same.”
That’s part of the impetus behind Hodge’s latest legal review article, “The Medical and Legal Implications of Artificial Intelligence in Health Care – An Area of Unsettled Law,” which was recently published in the Richmond Journal of Law & Technology.
Already, AI is a regular part of our daily lives. For example, we use apps like Google Maps and Waze to provide turn-by-turn guidance while driving. Siri and Alexa act as our digital personal assistant to answer questions and complete actions, and law enforcement employs AI to identify faces. However, AI in medicine is still uncharted territory for many of us.
Hodge’s new piece outlines the various ways that AI is being used daily in doctor’s offices and hospitals around the country. Its use seems to become more and more widespread by the day, but with that comes many unanswered legal questions.
“The legal implications of it are unsettled, and nobody knows how the law is going to resolve the liability issues concerning AI in medicine,” Hodge said. “Let me provide you with an example. Let’s say that AI makes a diagnosis along with a treatment plan, which is relayed to the doctor. What happens if the diagnosis ends up being wrong, causing the patient to suffer an adverse consequence? Who is responsible? Is it the treating doctor, manufacturer of the device, or the person who created the software? Nobody really knows with certainty who bears the responsibility and to what degree.”
While many questions remain unanswered, Hodge’s article argues that the potential positive impact of AI in medicine is too significant to ignore. There are between 210,000 and 400,000 deaths annually attributable to medical errors, and AI technology can be a great equalizer in lowering patient deaths attributable to medical mistakes.
Already, approximately 86% of healthcare providers utilize at least one form of artificial intelligence in their practices. But, according to Hodge, that number will only go up.
“AI is well suited for the medical profession because there is simply too much information for a doctor to remember,” Hodge said. “The body of medical literature currently doubles every seven years, so how can we expect a physician to recognize every new development without hesitation? Instead, we can program these AI-based systems with the most current developments to offer an answer to a doctor’s medical questions in seconds regardless of their location. This technology is also beneficial because we have a critical shortage of doctors in the United States. How will we accommodate people living to an older age and having more health issues? The answer is AI.”
As AI use becomes more prevalent, Hodge said additional questions will emerge. For instance, will patients want to pay as much to be treated by a robot as they would to be treated by a human? Some patients will remain skeptical when it comes to buying into a computer’s diagnosis. One of the reasons that patients visit the doctor is because they’re looking for an empathetic diagnosis, and that’s just something that AI cannot provide.
“The many legal implications of AI in medicine will have to be addressed by the courts or legislature over the next several years,” Hodge said. “However, it’s going to take some time before the legal issues involving AI in medicine are resolved, and we have established precedent.”