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Guidance needed to evaluate AI used to support patient care

RCP issues recommendations on artificial intelligence

Jo Carlowe

Tuesday, 04 September 2018

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has issued recommendations for the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to support doctors in providing patient care.

In a policy statement the RCP urges industry to address real-world challenges, doctors to appraise the technology, and regulators to develop guidance and evaluation methods.

The recommendations follow a roundtable event hosted by the RCP on 31 July 2018, at which experts across the sector – including RCP advisers on health informatics, members of the RCP’s Patient and Carer Network, healthcare organisations and industry representatives – gathered to discuss what AI means for the doctor of the future. The message was clear: “[I]t is not for the doctor of the future to engage with AI, it is already a reality for doctors right now.”

Commenting on the RCP’s position statement, RCP registrar and president-elect Dr Andrew Goddard said: “AI to support patient care is being developed in a variety of ways and has huge potential to support doctors and enable them to spend more time with patients. However, we mustn’t get carried away or think that the AI applications developed so far can replace a fully trained and qualified doctor. We need much more robust trials and evidence to work out how it can best be used.

“So let’s embrace it, evaluate it using the same rigorous standards we apply to any new medical innovation and educate ourselves on the opportunities AI offers to support great patient care.”

In its full position statement on AI in health, the RCP issues a number of key recommendations, these include the recommendation to incentivise industry to address real-world challenges in healthcare, such as prescribing errors, drug adherence and the use of, and resistance to, antibiotics.

“Many clinicians are unclear where responsibility lies or the legal implications for support given by AI products and on what basis, it has formed the conclusion. Support should be given for both doctors and patients to engage with AI development and testing in a meaningful way,” the guidance states.

Other recommendations include the need for new technology to support physicians in taking a more person-centred approach to care; the need for industry and healthcare managers to ensure that electronic record systems adhere to existing information standards, and for industry to take a “transparent approach” to explaining the evidence base for new technology.

In addition, it recommends the RCP should support all clinicians to critically appraise new technology, and support regulators, NHS England and NHS Digital to develop guidance, principles and appropriate evaluation methods to assess AI.

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