Article by Ben Leonard and Ruth Reader: “Artificial intelligence is spreading into health care, often as software or a computer program capable of learning from large amounts of data and making predictions to guide care or help patients. | Seth Wenig/AP Photo
Investors see health care’s future as inextricably linked with artificial intelligence. That’s obvious from the cash pouring into AI-enabled digital health startups, including more than $3 billion in the first half of 2022 alone and nearly $10 billion in 2021, according to a Rock Health investment analysis commissioned by POLITICO.
And no wonder, considering the bold predictions technologists have made. At a conference in 2016, Geoffrey Hinton, British cognitive psychologist and “godfather” of AI, said radiologists would soon go the way of typesetters and bank tellers: “People should stop training radiologists now. It’s just completely obvious that, within five years, deep learning is going to do better.”
But more than five years since Hinton’s forecast, radiologists are still training to read image scans. Instead of replacing doctors, health system administrators now see AI as a tool clinicians will use to improve everything from their diagnoses to billing practices. AI hasn’t lived up to the hype, medical experts said, because health systems’ infrastructure isn’t ready for it yet. And the government is just beginning to grapple with its regulatory role.
“Companies come in promising the world and often don’t deliver,” said Bob Wachter, head of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “When I look for examples of … true AI and machine learning that’s really making a difference, they’re pretty few and far between. It’s pretty underwhelming.”
Administrators say algorithms — the software that processes data — from outside companies don’t always work as advertised because each health system has its own technological framework. So hospitals are building out engineering teams and developing artificial intelligence and other technology tailored to their own needs.