Watson exec lays out 3 principles of AI: Purpose, transparency, skill

But don’t expect artificial intelligence to replace nurses or care managers in our lifetime.
By Tom Sullivan
10:36 AM
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IBM Watson Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence, machine learning and cognitive computing hold so much promise alongside the growing concern about replacing human jobs.

“We are beginning a journey of translating big data into insights and into value,” said Kyu Rhee, MD, Chief Health Officer at IBM Watson Health, during the National Committee for Quality Assurance Quality Talks event on Monday. “We are in the AI era now. AI understands, reasons, learns and empowers [clinicians] to help people make better decisions.”

Rhee mapped out three principles of AI: purpose, transparency and skills.

[Also: How AI is transforming healthcare and solving problems in 2017]

The purpose principle is that AI is designed to support humans, not replace them. AI vendors must be transparent, specifically about how AI, machine learning and cognitive computing systems are trained as well as the information that populates AI products. And this new era will demand fresh skills that Rhee described as “human+AI” to deliver better outcomes.

The notion that AI might be more aptly named “augmented intelligence” because it will not replace human jobs in the short-term is becoming an increasingly common refrain in healthcare.

“This is not going to happen to nurses and care managers in our lifetime,” said George Kassabgi, chief product officer of Seniorlink. “You cannot take a machine and make a mechanical mind just by adding horsepower.”

Kassabgi added that because healthcare is so contextual neural networks or machine learning algorithms will become part of knowledge workers’ toolbox, as software has been for decades now.

Rhee, looking into the future, said he can envision AI-based digital scribes that work with doctors to input data into EHRs or smart instrumentation in the home that predicts, personalizes and prevents adverse health events.

“I believe in a future where there will be device and app formularies, the same way a doctor prescribes tests today,” Rhee said. “There will be a tool used to prevent or treat diabetes and promote better health outside the exam room.”

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Email the writer: tom.sullivan@himssmedia.com