Report: AI can help avoid malpractice lawsuits, but risks may emerge

November 4, 2019

AI can help physicians avoid malpractice suits due to misdiagnosis, but the risks of the new technology have yet to be seen.

Artificial intelligence (AI) can help doctors avoid some of the most common malpractice suits but will likely introduce new risks to physicians and patients alike, according to a new report from malpractice insurer The Doctors Company.

The technology can help physicians enhance their assessment abilities by offering a second opinion or deeper understanding, thereby helping to avoid incorrect diagnoses, which are the leading cause of malpractice suits, according to the report.

Investors pumped $864 million into startup companies creating AI for healthcare in the second quarter of 2019. It’s easy to see why with 35 percent of physicians surveyed in the report saying they are currently using it in their practice. An additional 53 percent say they are optimistic about the prospects of the technology in medicine, with 66 percent saying they believe it will lead to faster and more accurate diagnoses, according to the report

The report identifies a series of benefits of using AI in healthcare including:

·      Assistance with case triaging

·      Enhanced image scanning and segmentation

·      Speedier and more accurate disease detection

·      Supported decision making

·      Integration and improvement of workflow

·      Personalized care

·      Automatic tumor tracking

·      Disease development and risk prediction

·      Patient appointment and treatment tracking

“AI will impact almost every area of healthcare,” Dan Cerutti, general manager Watson Health Platform IBM Watson Health, says in the report. “The most promising areas are where machines can automate the processing of large volumes of data when it is not practical for people.”

While the report highlights these positive aspects of the AI, it also identifies a number of risks associated with the new technology. These include:

·      False positives/negatives

·      Systems errors

·      Unexplainable results

·      Unclear lines of accountability

·      New skill requirements for physicians

·      Network systems vulnerable to malicious attack

·      Seeing things that don’t exist (AI hallucination)

·      Exacerbating biased or unorthodox physician behavior

These risks, and more, will materialize as the technology sees more widespread application, the report says. “([b]ut the medical professional liability insurance industry is not waiting for that day to begin assessing the risks. It already is clear that our current laws and boundaries will not be appropriate in an era of digital medicine.”