Big Tech’s Leap Into AI Healthcare Raises Concerns

Big Tech giants Google and Microsoft are rushing headlong into integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) into the healthcare industry. They aim to streamline and innovate the laborious processes bogging down our medical system. While promising, there are legitimate concerns that caution us to hold our applause until the dust settles.

As part of their latest ventures, Google has reportedly begun testing an AI program to expertly answer medical questions. In collaboration with health software company Epic and the telehealth titan Teladoc, Microsoft is integrating AI into its ambient clinical tech on its telehealth platform. Their drive toward advancements could revolutionize the sector, but at what cost?

Both Google and Microsoft have a record of questionable behavior and bias, particularly in the political realm. This record casts doubt on their impartiality as they dip their toes into healthcare. As noted, Google-owned YouTube and Microsoft’s LinkedIn platform have had their fair share of controversy around censorship.

Furthermore, there needs to be more concern about the accuracy of these AI-driven medical tools. Google’s Med-PaLM-2 chatbot, although impressively trained in expert medical demonstrations and licensing exams, is not infallible. Google itself admitted to inaccuracies with the chatbot, sometimes delivering irrelevant responses. How can we entrust AI with the critical task of providing accurate medical advice?

Privacy is another area of concern. Despite Google’s assurance that health data will be encrypted and exclusively used locally by Med-PaLM-2, concerns linger. Given the company’s less-than-stellar record in handling sensitive health data, as seen in its partnership with hospitals, one must wonder whether it has done enough to assuage these fears.

Similarly, Microsoft’s partnership with Teladoc carries its potential pitfalls. To reduce administrative burdens and improve patient care, they are integrating Microsoft’s AI tools into Teladoc’s Solo virtual care platform. While admirable, one can’t help but worry about potential data breaches and the impersonal touch this could lend to patient-doctor interactions.

AI’s entry into the healthcare industry can have far-reaching implications. The possibility of authoritative-sounding AI influencing patients in ways doctors wouldn’t endorse is real. Geoffrey Hinton, aptly nicknamed the “Godfather of AI,” has gone on record stating that Google isn’t a “proper steward” for AI and could trigger severe harm to humanity.

Moreover, concerns over AI’s potential to exacerbate physician burnout persist. Telehealth has seen a massive surge due to the pandemic, increasing physicians’ administrative burden. As Teladoc integrates AI tools into its platform, it’s crucial to ensure that it doesn’t add to the workload of overworked medical professionals.

These concerns highlight the need for a slow and systematic approach to integrating AI into healthcare. Innovation should be consistent with caution and careful evaluation. Our healthcare system is a life-critical infrastructure that requires rigorous testing and certification to ensure patient safety and privacy.