Majority of physicians optimistic about AI’s impact on healthcare

Fifty-three percent of physicians say they are optimistic about AI’s potential effect on healthcare, according to a new survey of more than 1,700 physicians published by the Doctors Company.

“AI technology is still in the early stages of deployment in clinical practice throughout the United States, but the number of users is likely to rise in coming years,” Richard E. Anderson, MD, chairman and CEO of the Doctors Company, said in the report’s executive summary. “Leading healthcare institutions see AI as the front-runner in new technologies for reducing risk.”

Survey responses also show that 66% of physicians think AI technologies will lead to faster and more accurate diagnoses. With diagnosis-related malpractice claims representing a significant issue for imaging specialists, the report emphasized that radiology will be one of the specialties impacted by AI the most.

“The advent of systems that can quickly and accurately read diagnostic images will undoubtedly redefine the work of radiologists and assist in the prevention of misdiagnoses,” according to the report. “The majority of AI healthcare applications use machine learning algorithms that train on historical patient data to recognize the patterns and indicators that point to a particular condition.”

Another way AI can effect healthcare is reducing the day-to-day stress felt by physicians. A  separate survey from the Doctors Company completed in 2018 found that nearly half of all physicians see “documentation burdens or workload” as the leading reasons for burnout. And AI, according to the report, can help “manage workflow,” “provide a second opinion,” “help with preliminary triage,” “allow remote examination” and help out in other ways as well.

“AI could actually help improve regular physician diagnosis by creating a better managed, more streamlined environment,” according to the report. “Miscommunication is a driver of misdiagnosis and malpractice claims, and AI benefits like reduced administration, fewer unnecessary patient visits, and informed second opinion could help optimize physician-patient time, and improve communication during visits.”

The Doctors Company also addressed potential risks associated with AI, including models being used that were trained with unsatisfactory data. An overreliance on AI and cybersecurity issues were among the other risks listed, and the report’s authors noted that understanding these risks is absolutely necessary.

“Clearly AI has the potential to reduce the frequency of medical malpractice litigation by improving the speed and accuracy of diagnoses,” the report concluded. “Nonetheless, the healthcare industry must have good foreknowledge of the risks before embracing wholesale deployment.”