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The Role of AI in Health Care: AMA Leadership Weighs In

September 27, 2023

Recently, American Medical Association President Jesse Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH joined AMA Chief Experience Officer Todd Unger to talk about generative AI tools like ChatGPT and their application in medicine. We’ve captured some highlights from that conversation. 

Is AI Poised to Take Over Health Care? 

“The probabilistic algorithms, they're just too narrow. They can't substitute for the judgment, the nuance or the thought that a clinician brings. So, I think there's a lot of opportunity to think about these tools as a copilot but not an autopilot particularly in the diagnostic realm.” 

Dr. Ehrenfeld explained why ChatGPT was able to “pass” the USMLE. The simple answer: those questions pertain to what is considered textbook cases. Patients are anything but textbook. They are complex individuals who need a caring interaction with their clinicians.  

What Health Care Challenges Can AI Address? 

“There's a huge opportunity. And we know that based on our survey data about 20% of U.S.-based practices are already using AI. But this is where they're using it. They're using it to unburden these administrative problems. They're using it for supply chain management, scheduling, optimization.” 

Dr. Ehrenfeld pointed out that the AMA strongly feels that AI should be leveraged first to unburden physicians. For example, AI technologies, machine learning, and automation should be leveraged to support physicians in doing the tasks and activities that would otherwise take them away from providing actual patient care. 

What about the question of liability? 

“We think that the liability ought to be placed with the people who are best positioned to mitigate the harm. And that is likely going to be the developer, the implementer, whoever buys these things, often not the end user, the clinician.” 

Dr. Ehrenfeld acknowledged that this must be addressed with deep consideration. He added that the AMA would value a collaboration with the FDA to develop new tools that ensure safe and effective products. 

The Challenge of AI Adoption and Acceptance 

Dr. Ehrenfeld cited a 2023 Pew Research Center poll revealing that 60% of Americans would be uncomfortable with an AI diagnosis or treatment recommendations, versus them coming from their health care provider. 

“Trust is fundamental to what we do in health care. It is fundamental to the patient-physician relationship. And preserving patients trust in an increasingly digital world is absolutely crucial.” 

He also pointed out patient apprehension pertaining to health data. A 2021 AMA survey found that 94% of patients want strong laws to govern the use of their health data.  

In closing, Dr. Ehrenfeld emphasized that AI in health care is far from mature, and there are many more conversations, considerations and decisions to be made. But the potential for relieving physician burden is there.  


Listen to the podcast: ChatGPT, AI in health care and the future of medicine