Artificial Intelligence Is Not Substitute Intelligence

The rapid change in healthcare intelligence is now the new normal. These changes are being pushed by technology. On a simple scale in the ACO space, doctors can “see where they have been.”  By better managing data to drive decision making, doctors can use claims data to help manage complex patients, keep patients’ preventive measures up to date, and see the cost of the care they have provided.


But, we want to know “where we are going” with a treatment plan. Or how we can add risk stratification to patients with complex diseases to better predict outcomes. This practical data gives the clinician both a measure of insight into the future and the ability to change it.

In our rush to add technology to the healthcare paradigm though, we must not forget the patient. There is increasing danger that we are putting more and more machines between the patient and the doctor.  As a clinician it is easy to ignore the unique personality of the person in front of you and rely on technology to spit out a diagnosis.

Healthcare is individual and personal. Furthermore, before technology was available, the healing art was often a warm professional touch. There is a special diagnostic skill and clinical understanding that a physician brings to each situation. If we introduce a substitute for this seasoned thinking and knowledge into every healthcare decision, we will create the risk that this well-practiced knowledge will disappear.

Our reliance on the machine to provide that professional touch could introduce a fatal professional laziness. If we lose the expertise of diagnosing, who will program the next derivative diagnostic program?

Aggregation of population data is useful for understanding the effectiveness of our treatments and managing a population. And artificial intelligence (AI) reduces the time needed to organize massive amounts of data.

But remember that it artificial intelligence is creating an average.  None of us would claim to be average.

New insights should be available for clinicians to improve clinical outcomes daily. This data should guide the creation of updated clinical guidelines for diseases like sepsis and conditions where precise laboratory data is available. A physician’s learning should never stop.

Joe Kvedar, VP for Connected Health Partners, says, “It is imperative that technology is integrated safely and effectively into healthcare while emphasizing that artificial intelligence can complement care rather than replace the clinician.” He emphasizes that artificial intelligence must never interfere with the idea that the person sitting on the exam table is a human and as such demands the highest level of respect and personalization of their healthcare.[i]

As we install artificial intelligence solutions into healthcare, we should keep our usual skepticism. As our “old” medical school professors told us, “Talk to your patients, they will tell you the diagnosis.”

[i] HIMMS INSIGHTS 7.2, Artificial Intelligence, December 2018, pg. 8.

Craigan Gray

About the Author

Craigan Gray, MD, MBA, JD

Dr. Craigan Gray, Salient Healthcare’s Chief Medical Officer, brings rich experience from private practice, hospital leadership, and governmental health-benefit programs. Prior to joining Salient, Dr. Gray was director of North Carolina’s $12 billion Medicaid program. His time as VPMA at Bon Secours Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital in Kentucky was distinguished by moving the facility into the top-quality performance tier for Health Grades and CMS health quality indicators. Dr. Gray is a Stanford University trained Obstetrician/Gynecologist. In addition to an MD degree, Dr. Gray holds an MBA degree and a JD degree. He is a Certified Physician Executive and is published in various medical journals.

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