Mark Hitchman, Canon Medical Systems UK, discusses why trust and business values will be the cornerstones to defining AI ethics.
There’s no doubt Artificial Intelligence (AI) has a place in modern healthcare. But as the pace of innovation and adoption into health organisations accelerates, there will be the prejudices and voices of caution. The concerns surrounding its capacity to replace people seem to be abating as understanding grows around its supporting role to workforces and how it will co-pilot clinical diagnoses. However, the key to garnering a warmer embrace by end-user stakeholders is to inspire confidence through trust and sound governance.
Just as clinicians take a Hippocratic Oath, medical technology innovators also need to be guided by a moral and ethical compass. Everyone’s vision for AI in healthcare is the application of deep learning techniques with rich medical datasets to positively impact patient outcomes. It’s exciting, inspiring and most importantly, it promises solutions to some of the very big challenges facing UK healthcare today. But with the AI hype, there also comes caution. Can we trust AI? Where is the data coming from to build the algorithms? Is data diverse enough to represent our health populations?
AI will support modern healthcare
The 2020s will be a decade of health innovations led mainly by the deep learning-based technologies that are fuelling the AI evolution. The early pilots and entry-level machine-learning case examples are providing benefits for many process, clinical and operational efficiencies in our over-stretched health services. Examples include its use as a second-layer checking tool of breast cancer screening scans, as automated assistants in routine surgery, or to improve the diagnostic quality of CT scans whilst keeping patient dose low.
Continuous innovation in developing algorithms that drive healthcare technologies is the quest of all the major players. Working in collaboration with global academics, innovators and clinical luminaries is a common theme. So too is the issuing of ethics charters, or guidelines, that set out how AI will benefit and support health establishments, patients and society.
Business values are the cornerstone of AI ethics
The way a company does business is the cornerstone to gaining trust in Artificial Intelligence. This portrays its overall ethical stance and values. This can help define answers to all the key ethical questions around where data is coming from to build algorithms and ensuring AI is representative of all the health demographics it is going to serve.
The business of ethics goes far beyond the statutory requirements of a commercial organisation – it’s about discretionary decisions and behaviours guided by core corporate values. Business values influence how we interact with employees, suppliers and customers. They govern accountancy practices and indeed inject a commercial consciousness.
Examples of the business of ethics can define the authenticity of a company over the long-term. Does it have a strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) pedigree with deep altruistic charity links? Does it have an opinion on the key macro-environmental issues of our time? Is it doing something concrete to make a difference to climate change, world poverty or race/gender inequality?
Often the wider ‘personality’ of a medtech innovator illustrates the values behind its ethics and ethos. Its culture and philosophy for its own people and society beyond tell a story about the leadership and innovations it builds.
You don’t need to be a tech leader like Bill Gates to roll out initiatives for the greater good. Philanthropy woven into business leadership can champion a higher level of trust in the brand, the business and ultimately the AI advancements that are being developed.
Relationships are always governed by trust
Innovation and trust go hand in hand. Especially where the lives of patients depend on it. So in this early stage of AI evolution and collaborations it is crucial that we all act transparently to build a trustworthy foundation. Individuals and companies that undermine integrity, by fast-tracking developments or gathering data from unvalidated repositories, risk setting back the reputation of the whole of the industry.
Let’s hang on to the excitement of AI to boost medtech innovation, drive the ethics of transparency and good governance, and look forward to the rewards. AI without shock and awe will ensure a steady and supported adoption of this inspiring innovation. Championing trust and working with businesses with ethics is vital to deliver the greatest rewards.