Oct 20, 2023 | Law Practice, The Practical Lawyer

Artificial Intelligence is Altering the Face of Medicine - Samuel D. Hodge, Jr.

Artificial intelligence (AI) permeates all aspects of life from providing driving directions to answering questions through applications like Siri and ChatGPT. Health care is no different. In the blink of an eye, references to AI in medicine have become ever-present.1 In fact, about 86 percent of medical providers use at least one type of AI in their practices.2 However, such use presents uncharted risks since not all possible outcomes are known.3 As a result, the tort implications remain unsettled since both the technology and its uses are still emerging.4 This article presents an overview of the applications of AI in the medical field, which will be followed by an examination of some of the novel legal issues raised by this technology.


AI deals with the hardware and software applications that permit computers “to determine relation- ships between datasets and apply the learned relationships in a predictive fashion.”5 These systems attempt to mimic the brain’s neural network.6 They employ different types of processes such as “algorithms, pattern matching, rules, deep learning and cognitive computing” to determine how to under- stand the information.7 This technology, which has taken over 50 years to develop, has caused “both excitement and trepidation.”8 While AI has the potential to revolutionize medicine, significant issues exist about the technology’s impact on privacy, security, and bias.9

How AI Works

AI is a subdivision of computer technology that attempts to comprehend and create aptitude, customarily as software programs.10 The software accumulates background data about a problem “through sensors or human input,” compares that to the collected data, and decodes the background information founded upon the previously collected materials.11 The software contemplates various possibilities, and “predicts which action will be most successful based on the collected information.”12 While this method produces useful outcomes, it is restricted by the boundaries of the imputed data.13

These systems can perform undertakings previously believed to demand human intelligence. They can deal with uncertainty, “learning from experience; making predictions; interpreting language in a com- plex, contextual manner.”14 These emerging usages of AI can perform on a scale that far exceeds our intellectual capabilities, thereby presenting endless opportunities to make use of large assemblages of information.15

AI in healthcare

Rapidly emerging AI-driven technologies have applications in many areas of medicine. It is estimated that by 2030, “AI may affect up to 14% of global domestic product with half of this effect coming from improvements in productivity,” and the health care field will probably be a priority for its implementation.16 In fact, “AI will transform healthcare by ‘deriving new and important insights from the vast amount of data generated during the delivery of health care every day.’”17 These systems are presently being used to diagnose disorders such as heart arrhythmias, low blood sugar, tissue pathologies, and abnormalities visible on diagnostic imaging.18

Physicians have long grappled with “balancing the exorbitant amount of patient information with diagnosing disease accurately,” and that dilemma has been exacerbated by “an overall shortage of clinical support.”19 Nevertheless, the development of AI in medicine allows physicians to diagnose and treat illnesses from a new platform.20 For instance, it “can readily diagnose and track a patient’s health without a doctor present, … algorithms … can accelerate and assist in drug development,” and robots can be used in “biologicals, genomics, and surgical care.”21

The magic of this technology is that it can answer queries presented by physicians, suggest diagnoses and treatment strategies, and predict the probability of success behind each treatment suggestion.22 AI is perfectly suited for the medical profession, where “the body of medical literature currently doubles every seven years,”23 because it can provide instant information to a physician at any given time. AI- based systems are also designed to consider the infinite variables in the human body and suggest an answer to a physician’s medical inquiries within seconds.24 An AI system can oversee an individual’s health and can offer a customized treatment plan premised upon the patient’s medical records.25

The medical application of AI that has garnered much attention is robotic surgery. This form of high- tech surgery permits a doctor to perform a variety of complex procedures with increased precision than is available through conventional techniques.26 This type of AI assembles information by observing physicians performing recurrent surgeries.27 Coupled with the capacity to remember the movements of a surgeon, AI assists these robots with the deduction and use of cognitive actions like decision-making, problem-solving, and speech recognition.28

AI-based algorithms also aid in reviewing scans, identifying carcinomas, and expediting instrument positioning.29 For example, assisted by AI, robotic arms can automatically detach the deep roots of hair during a hair transplant and correctly insert them onto a person’s scalp, with the required force and speed.30

CLICK HERE to read the full article, which was originally published in ALI CLE’s The Practical Lawyer.

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