Patients and their families who were invited to speak on stage during AIMed North America 2018 shared something in common. They have known Dr. Anthony Chang, chief intelligence and innovation officer of Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) and founder of AIMed for an extended period of time. Although their medical condition underlie the bond, it is the trust and assurance that maintains it over the years. 

One of the patients, Leslie Railey said as a mother armed with a heart rhythm monitor, sometimes it gives her a peace of mind when she knows that Dr. Chang will give her immediate response via a call or email, when a problem occurs. 

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Leslie Railey (first left) with Dr. Chang and other panel speakers on stage

Similarly, the Lietzau family also expressed that they received much support from Dr. Chang as their adopted daughter with severe heart condition was flying from China to US for treatment. Dr. Chang was the one who liaised with the airline over the phone, to guarantee that the child, Hannah, is able to fly safely. 

Thus, whether artificial intelligence (AI) and related new technology in medicine can be equally huamanized and patient-centered, was one of the queries these patients have in mind. 

Building trust all over 

Jason, father of the Lietzau family said most of his perceptions about AI were formed from movies and popular media. It may sound a little apprehensive but misconceptions largely remain as patients begin to understand AI’s benefits towards diagnosis and treatment. 

Railey said as her child is also one of Dr. Chang’s patients, she is more concerned about the safety and health of her children and herself, rather than how her data will be shared as AI propagates. Even though she hope that a better system will be in place soon to better protect patients’ data and privacy. 

Dr. Lynda Chin, associate vice chancellor and chief information officer at The University of Texas System urged in another panel session to know patients as a person, not just a diagnosis or data point. “Patient benefits require more than AI. Trust and transparency are keys to engagement; patients will not engage if they don’t trust” said Dr. Chin. 

Understanding the benefits of AI in medicine 

Dr. Chang believes apart from clinicians, patients and their families also need to be educated about AI in medicine. AI algorithms need to be continuously revised to ensure its relevance, for physicians and their patients. “Hopefully we will rehumanize medicine, technology should enable that rather than block that” Dr. Chang added. 

The Lietzau family agrees. As Melody, the mother of the family said, “Even as patients, we want to learn and understand. I am amaze with all the technology and I want to know what are the benefits for me”. 

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The Lietzau family and Dr. Anthony Chang

Dr. Chang highlighted the hidden challenge; it is crucial to separate the hype and reality. Perhaps patients need to envisage AI in medicine doesn’t not equate to walking into a future consultation room with nothing but computer panels. AI is there to relieve the heavy workload of physicians, so that they can provide more personalized decisions and care. 

As Dr. Spyro Mousses, chief executive officer of Systems Oncology said, “there is no such thing as machine, they just give answers. It is not man versus machine neither, but man plus machine”. 

“I think as patients, we need to take time to educate ourselves. It takes a long time to trust human so we may need even longer to trust non-human”, Melody said. 

Author Bio
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Hazel Tang

A science writer with data background and an interest in current affair, culture and arts; a no-med from an (almost) all-med family. Follow on Twitter.