Several doctors agreed that AI will help them with their grunt work, and hopefully free them up to spend more time with patients.

“Health and health care is too human a notion for AI alone to cure it,” says Rasu Shrestha, chief innovation officer at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and chief of the division of radiology informatics.

Radiology is the specialty that many in the tech industry believe will be disrupted first by AI. A nuanced read in the New Yorker on the topic cites a computer scientist who thinks that medical schools should stop training radiologists altogether.

But Shrestha doesn’t think that AI will do his job. Instead, he hopes that it will free him up to spend more time with patients, rather than being a “mere diagnostician” or a “human robot.”

Oates agreed that it could take over some of the more mundane aspects of his job. He said UPMC has some AI algorithms in place to help them with their decision-making, but it’s still limited today.

Most of the doctors were not aware of uses of AI being used in the clinic to benefit patients outside of a research study. Before it becomes mainstream, health systems will need to find ways to protect the privacy of patients, and protect themselves from liability. What if the AI gets it wrong?

Ultimately, they agreed that what matters is whether this technology is helping patients — not how cool it seems, or whether it makes money for Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

Joel Zivot, an anesthesiologist and fellowship director in critical care medicine at Emory University, noted that doctors and patients are too rarely represented in health technology. Too often, he said that companies “imagine what they think is our deep problem and they try to solve it.”

The reality with health care, he said, is that it’s a complicated, collaborative and fundamentally human. It’s not about super-doctors — or supercomputers for that matter — parachuting in to save the day.

“I think Silicon Valley has taken this simplistic voice in thinking that we need data and fast computers,” he said. “Before companies say they’re going to make the future better, first come and talk to me and try to understand what I do in some deeper way.”

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