AMA creates regulations around 'augmented intelligence'

By Laura Lovett
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Last week the American Medical Association outlined a new set of recommendations on augmented intelligence, a type of technology that aims to extend, but not replace, a human medical expert’s insight and decision-making capabilities.

“As technology continues to advance and evolve, we have a unique opportunity to ensure that augmented intelligence is used to benefit patients, physicians, and the broad health care community,” Dr. Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, a board member of the AMA, said in a statement. “Combining [augmented intelligence] methods and systems with an irreplaceable human clinician can advance the delivery of care in a way that outperforms what either can do alone. But we must forthrightly address challenges in the design, evaluation, and implementation as this technology is increasingly integrated into physicians’ delivery of care to patients.”

The new policy guidelines encourage clinicians to look at how digital health can enhance patient care and physicians' satisfaction. On that note, the guidelines also stress that education is key in this area, stating that clinicians and patients should be taught about the promise and limitations of augmented intelligence in healthcare. 

But it isn’t just about using the technology in practice — the guidance also describes about how doctors can work with developers to help design, validate, and improve the implementation of augmented intelligence in the healthcare field. These go on to state that the organization will promote thoughtfully designed and clinically validated tools that are user centered, transparent, conform to standards, safeguard patients' privacy, and take steps to address biases. 

Lastly, the rules also touch on the legal and regulatory implications of using augmented intelligence in healthcare. AMA said it will continue to explore liability or intellectual property issues related to the technology.

“To reap the benefits for patient care, physicians must have the skills to work comfortably with health care [augmented intelligence]. Just as working effectively with EHRs is now part of training for medical students and residents, educating physicians to work effectively with [augmented intelligence] systems, or more narrowly, the [augmented intelligence] algorithms that can inform clinical care decisions, will be critical to the future of [augmented intelligence] in health care,” Ehrenfeld said.

While the AMA opted for the term augmented intelligence instead of artificial intelligence (AI), the latter has been the buzz phrase of the year with scores of associations and agencies starting to address the growing use of this technology. 

In fact, even the White House started taking notice. While many have criticized the Trump administration as being late to the game on AI, the White House hosted a summit on AI for American industry this spring, where it announced a new AI-centered task force. 

More thought groups are beginning to form around AI as well. Specifically in the healthcare space, founder and former CEO of the American Telemedicine Association Jonathan Linkous and Mary Ann Liebert, CEO of Mary Ann Liebert Inc., launched a new organization called PATH (Partnership for Automation and Innovation in Healthcare) that will work as an advocacy alliance to promote AI, robotics, and automation in healthcare. 

But augmented intelligence isn’t the only tech field that AMA is creating policies around recently. This announcement comes on the heels of a new AMA policy encouraging EHR training in medical schools and residency programs. Citing concerns about how young doctors and students are impacted by EHRs, the organization urged programs to begin teaching budding physicians about the technology sooner.