AMA calls for government regulation in first position statement on AI

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The AMA has released its first position statement on using AI in healthcare, which significantly emphasises protecting patient data and confidentiality.

The organisation said the statement outlines ethical and regulatory principles based on safety and equity, which should be applied to AI technologies in healthcare.

It said the position statement covers the development and implementation of AI in healthcare and supports regulation to protect patients, consumers, healthcare professionals and their data.

According to the statement, "The AMA upholds that human-delivered medical care must never be replaced by AI, but AI has the potential to assist in care delivery, reduce inefficiencies in the system and lead to more appropriate allocation of resources. AI is a means to achieving the goal of improved healthcare, but can only support the doctor and patient to reach this goal."

The association calls for the government to regulate AI in healthcare that protects patients, consumers, and healthcare professionals. It says the protections should seek to improve patient outcomes while ensuring that medical practitioners make final decisions in consultation with their patients.

AMA President Professor Steve Robson said with appropriate policies and protocols in place, AI can assist in delivering improved healthcare.

“The AMA sees great potential for AI to assist in diagnosis, for example, or recommending treatments and at transitions of care, but a medical practitioner must always be ultimately responsible for decisions and communication with their patients," said Professor Robson.

“There’s no doubt we are on the cusp of big changes AI can bring to the sector and this will require robust governance and regulation which is appropriate to the healthcare setting and engenders trust in the system.

“We’d like to see a national governance structure established to advise on policy development around AI in healthcare.

“Such a structure must include all health-sector stakeholders like medical practitioners, patients, AI developers, health informaticians, healthcare administrators and medical defence organisations.

“This will underpin how we carefully introduce AI technology into healthcare. AI tools used in healthcare must be co-designed, developed and tested with patients and medical practitioners and this should be embedded as a standard approach to AI in healthcare.

“Decisions about healthcare are the bedrock of the doctor-patient relationship and these will never be replaced by AI. People worry when they hear that machine learning is perfecting decision-making, but this is not the role AI should play in healthcare. Diagnoses, treatments and plans will still be made by medical practitioners with the patient – AI will assist and supplement this work.  

“We need to get ahead of any unforeseen consequences for patient safety, quality of care and privacy across the profession. This will require future changes to how we teach, train, supervise, research and manage our workforce.

“One of the key concerns for any healthcare organisation using AI must be the privacy of patients and practitioners and their data. The AMA’s position is very clear about protecting the privacy and confidentiality of patient health information. This is where regulation and oversight is really important; the healthcare sector must establish robust and effective frameworks to manage risks, ensure patient safety and guarantee the privacy of all involved.

“The AMA’s position statement shows doctors are engaging with this rapidly evolving field and laying down some guiding principles. If we can get the settings right, so that AI serves the healthcare needs of patients and the wider community, we think it can enable healthcare that is safe, high quality and patient centred.”