Ready or not, here comes AI

A future with AI is coming

Thursday, March 14, 2019 – Marc Aiello
The topic of artificial intelligence has been consuming practically every medium over the past few years, with implications touching upon almost every industry.

And if that isn’t grabbing your attention, it may be folks who are likening the arrival of AI to what many of us watched in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Whether we like it or not, AI will be influencing our everyday work in the very near future (if isn’t already).

At HIROC, part of our commitment to continuous learning is constantly seeking out the perspectives of experts who provide insight on future trends. Our annual conference will feature a panel of innovation change makers – we encourage you to register and check it out!

Recently, we had the privilege of hearing from Brian Hodges, Executive-Vice President of Education and Chief Medical Officer at the University Health Network (UHN), and professor at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. When he’s not working as a physician and teacher, Hodges researches the assessment, competence, compassion and future of the healthcare profession.

The event he spoke at was hosted by the Canadian Association for Health Services and Policy Research (CAHSPR) and its theme centred on Artificial Intelligence and Learning Health Systems.

By drawing on The Future of the Professions by Daniel and Richard Susskind as one of his sources, Hodges provided significant insight into what humans can bring to the future of healthcare surrounded by AI. While he believes there is an essential role for humans to play, he strongly suggested that healthcare professionals educate themselves on new technology and be vigilant in adapting to the inevitable wave of AI.

According to Hodges, professions in the healthcare system will adjust to a future with AI in three ways: through the human double-check, by collaborating with machines and by focusing on human empathy.

The human double-check

The first way AI will change healthcare roles is through the use of metacognitions like the “human double-check.” Metacognition is traditionally defined as “thinking about thinking,” but in this context, it’s referring to human beings examining machine “thinking.”

For example, the human double-check occurs when a human reviews computer outputs on behalf of another human, building a sense of trust with each other that cannot possibly exist between humans and machines.

To illustrate this, Hodges described what he calls the “Katherine Johnson Moment.” In short, this moment is when astronaut John Glenn asked Johnson, a reputable NASA human computer and mathematician, to review and approve an electronic computer’s mission calculations before he orbited the Earth. Glenn did this because he preferred to rely on Johnson’s expertise over the results of a computer.

“Let’s think about this,” says Hodges. “An astronaut wanted a human being to double-check a machine.”

In the future, Hodges says human traits like professionalism and empathy will become increasingly more relevant to our healthcare system’s day-to-day operations. In a world dominated by AI, the continual balance of humans both relying on AI and only trusting other humans will be an essential component of contemporary workforces.

Collaborating with machines

As we interact and adapt to each new wave of technology in time, our relationship with machines will hint to how we’ll use them in prospective problem-solving. The emotional relationship between humans and machines hasn’t always been a “happy collaboration,” says Hodges, because it’s necessarily determined by the entirely human concept of choice.

“When a doctor chooses to use a computer and sit with their back to a patient, that’s their choice,” says Hodges. “The way we use technology is important – it shapes us.”

Hodges argues that the phenomenon of humans emotionally interacting with machines, instead of being mentally present to use them as a collaborative tool, must be recognized. Healthcare professionals need to choose to be more present for their patients by ensuring empathy is conveyed in combination with digital tools.

Analogue vs. digital empathy

Hodge’s final point examines human, or “analogue,” empathy and how it can determine where technology can have the greatest impact in caring for patients.

“We need to take a look at some of our technology and ask ‘What do they provide?’” says Hodges. “Are they creating a connection in an emotional, human way, or is it equivalent to empty calories?”

Hodges points out that the healthcare system must assess what technologies can be used to produce compassionate connections and wholesome experiences with patients rather than using technology for technology’s sake.

“This is not a dichotomy,” says Hodges. “What kind of experience are we creating with technology?”

By focusing on the things humans do uniquely well, we may be able to control where AI and other new technologies take hold. This may help us prepare for each new wave ensuring we never lose the human touch.

The HIROC Connection

“This is the first time I’ve attended a conference about learning health systems. I was fascinated by the way AI technology is already being used by many Canadian healthcare organizations to make accurate diagnoses and to help with medical interventions,” says Kopiha Nathan, Senior Healthcare Risk Management Data Specialist at HIROC.

“For example, by reducing the time it takes to digitally map a brain tumour by 30 minutes, healthcare professionals can now use technology to provide even greater direct patient care.”

With a background in Information Technology and a passion for data security and privacy, Kopiha played a significant role in the creation of HIROC’s Cyber Risk Management guide. The guide is not only an invaluable resource because of the assistance it provides to healthcare administrators, but it’s also symbolic of HIROC’s commitment to being proactive and ever-watchful of an increasingly tech-reliant healthcare system.

“We encourage our subscribers to innovate and embrace new technology, however one thing to keep in mind are the risks associated with using new technologies like AI,” says Kopiha.

“For example, AI systems are not immune to cyber threats, so healthcare organizations should ensure safety measures are in place and that a system of data governance and oversight is implemented throughout the organization.”

As you and your organization adapt to evolving technology and embark on your innovation journey, we encourage you to reach out to HIROC for support and guidance. By engaging in a dialogue, we can better understand your changing needs and respond with tools and resources that matter to you.

By Marc Aiello, Communications & Marketing Coordinator at HIROC.