Healthcare's AI will be held to higher standard than other industries, advises Massachusetts governor

Governor Charlie Baker said that while AI has great potential it is important for healthcare to keep privacy and implementation hurdles top of mind.
By Laura Lovett
09:26 am

The stakes are high when it comes to implementing artificial intelligence in healthcare, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker reminded the audience at the World Medical Innovation Forum in Boston yesterday. 

While the technology has the ability to shape the future of health, Baker — who previously served as the CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care — urged the industry to be mindful about data security, implementation hurdles and accurate translation of data. 

“My advice to all of you is to recognize and understand that people in healthcare get held to a higher standard,” Baker said. “That’s just the way it is. That’s not a bad thing because people believe in you, and believe in what you are capable of, and what you can do.”

Others in the tech industry have made major missteps in regards to data security. He mentioned Facebook’s data misuse in the past and how that shaped the public’s opinion.

“Think about some of the hammers that have come down on other major enterprises — in retail, in financial services, public sector entities — because their platforms have been penetrated and people have been able to cause some pretty significant heartburn to the customers, employees and others once they got inside,” he said. “Here in the healthcare world, people think differently about what they expect from you than what they expect from a traditional retailer or financial service organization or just about anybody else.”

He also advised the industry to temper expectations when it comes to the capabilities of these technologies. Looking back at his own time in the healthcare industry, the governor said he saw a lot of hype and technologists over-promising results. 

“I’m not a tech person but I was the guy in many cases to make the no-go decision, with respect to major investments in technology,” Baker said. “I’ve always found that if I took whatever the tech people were telling me and I divided it by 10, then I got to what was likely to happen, with respect to the capacity to perform.”

There is a place for AI in health, he said, but its important to focus on appropriately implementing these technologies. 

“My one piece of advice, as a guy who spent a lot of time in both space, the public and the private, is I would really just focus on the places where AI is a tool to make our organization smarter, and can get us answers to questions we think are important quicker,” Baker said. 

However, when developing these AI tools it is important to consider the pitfalls of the data, he said. 

“The data that AI is going to process has to be structured in a way that [AI] understands it,” Baker said. “It has the capacity to translate those differences and to make sure that when they get done with that exercise they have made the adjustments to deal with the fact that, in healthcare, as you all know, we still struggle with data definitions and we struggle with how people input data, what they think is important, what they save, how they save it, what it is connected to and how you access it.”

Nevertheless, he said that the technology could be instrumental in changing the way the industry treats patients in the future — in particular by helping doctors make decisions. 

“I think AI has tremendous potential to do one of the most important things we do in healthcare, which is to help the practitioner make really difficult decisions in an increasingly sophisticated, complicated and powerful world of healthcare,” he said.