How Aggressive AI Adoption Could Harm Healthcare Industry

June 20, 2018
Tracey Walker
Tracey Walker

A new Accenture study reveals how the aggressive adoption of artificial intelligence plays a greater role in healthcare decision making.

Many health organizations lack the capabilities needed to ensure that their artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) systems act accurately, responsibly, and transparently, according to a new study.

Accenture’s Digital Health Technology Vision 2018 report identified a range of issues related to the aggressive adoption of AI and the greater role it plays in healthcare decision making, and counseled the need for organizations to instill trust and transparency into the design of their technology systems. The study also explored five trends facing healthcare over the next three years as technology becomes an intrinsic part of care delivery.

These five trends are called:

  • Extended Reality
  •  Frictionless Business
  • Internet of Thinking
  • Citizen AI
  • Data Veracity

“We see these technology trends in two categories-‘enablers’ and ‘consequences’ (the first three being ‘enablers’ and the last two ‘consequences’)-as emerging technologies enable the system to help people in new ways but also introduce new issues as technology becomes deeply intertwined in our lives and in our care,” says Kaveh Safavi, MD, JD, head of Accenture’s global health practice.

AI problems

Some of the report’s most interesting findings focus on the consequences of the greater role that technology-particularly intelligent technology such as AI-plays in healthcare decision making. Despite 77% of 100 executives from 100 organizationssurveyed saying they expect to invest in IoT and smart sensors this year, and more than half (53%) expecting to invest in AI systems, 81% said their organizations are not prepared to face the societal and liability issues that will require them to explain their AI-based actions and decisions. As a result, about three-fourths (73%) plan to develop internal ethical standards for AI to ensure their AI systems are designed to act responsibly and transparently.

“In addition, health organizations are facing a new kind of vulnerability: inaccurate, manipulated, and biased data that can lead to corrupted insights and skewed results,” says Safavi.

The report found that while 86% of health executives said their organizations are using data to drive automated decision making at an unprecedented scale, the same proportion (86%) have not invested in capabilities to verify data sources across their most critical systems. Despite this lack of action, one-fourth (24%) say that they have been the target of adversarial AI behaviors, like falsified location data or bot fraud, on more than one occasion.

“Intelligent technologies are enabling health organizations to evolve at speed, collaborate with other entities, and create deeper, more meaningful relationships with patients across various care settings,” says Safavi. “However, the report underscores the choices that healthcare executives must make as these paradigm-shifting technologies evolve. How will we apply technology, govern it, and ensure that it does no harm? The report’s findings clearly suggest that health organizations must remain responsible for ensuring that their technology systems act accurately, responsibly, and transparently. As such, they must demonstrate data stewardship and focus on building a foundation of trust and transparency to bolster their societal benefits.”

Other unique findings include:

  • Virtual and augmented reality technologies are providing a bridge that connects people, places and information, closing gaps of distance by creating immersive experiences that enhance medical training, improve clinical practices and provide patients greater access to care, no matter where they are. About four-fifths (82%) of health executives believe extended reality is removing the hurdle of distance in accessing people, information and experience.
  • Technology-based partnerships are allowing health networks to expand faster and move into more ecosystems than ever before. Most health executives believe blockchain and microservices (an approach that breaks applications down to their simplest component functions with their own APIs) offer a potential solution: 91% believe blockchain and smart contracts are critical to their organization over the next three years, and 88% see the importance of microservices for scaling and integrating ecosystem partnerships.
  • From ICU hospital rooms that automatically manage patient fluids to self-maintaining equipment, more health organizations are developing intelligent environments with a mix of robotics, AI, and connected devices. However, the technical infrastructure to support this hyper-connected environment has not evolved at the same pace. Four-fifths (82%) of health executives believe that “edge” architecture will speed the maturity of many of these technologies. Most (85%) also believe generating real-time insights from the volumes of data expected in the future will require computing “at the edge,” where data is generated. Still, most health executives (86%) agree they’ll need to balance cloud and edge computing to maximize technology infrastructure agility and enable intelligence everywhere.

“Intelligent technologies are quickly becoming embedded in our daily lives,” says Safavi. “Most health organizations are already harnessing AI and/or IoT systems, or plan to invest in and implement the systems in the near future. The vast majority are using data analytics at an unprecedented scale. While these systems promise great advancements in care, most health organizations do not have the infrastructure in place-or the appropriate internal ethical standards-to deal with issues related to explaining their systems’ healthcare decisions or ensuring they act accurately, responsibly, and transparently.”

The Digital Health Technology Vision report is based on responses from more than 100 health organizations with annual revenues of at least $500 million, with most having annual revenues greater than $6 billion. The survey helped identify the key issues and priorities for technology adoption and investment. Respondents were mostly C-level executives and directors, with some functional and line-of-business leads. The research was supplemented with input gathered from multiple Accenture business leaders and Accenture’s Technology Vision External Advisory Board, a group comprised of more than two dozen experienced individuals from the public and private sectors, academia, venture capital firms and entrepreneurial companies.