Education, Culture Key to Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare

In order to navigate future uses of artificial intelligence in healthcare, providers and policymakers must address education, skills development, and workplace culture, a new report from Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program states.

The report authors said that in contrast to early predictions about automation, AI, and the workforce, projections about the future of technology seem to view these tools as both beneficial and disruptive.

“Technologists at first issued scary dystopian alarms about the power of automation, including AI, to destroy work. Then came a correction of sorts, with a wave of reassurances that tended to minimize alarm,” the report said.

“Now, the discourse appears to be arriving at a more balanced story that suggests that while the robots are coming, they will bring neither an apocalypse nor utopia, but instead both benefits and stress alike.”

The authors noted that over the next few decades, approximately 25 percent of US jobs will experience high exposure to automation, but more than 60 percent of jobs will only see mid-level or low disruption.

Jobs in any industry that requiring a bachelor’s degree or more will have an automation potential of just 24 percent, while jobs that require less than a bachelor’s degree have an automation potential of 55 percent.

The report said that the healthcare industry has an automation potential of 36 percent, with healthcare practitioners and technical occupations seeing an automation potential of 33 percent over the next few decades.

Although AI and automation may not cause radical changes for the healthcare workforce, the authors noted that some changes will be necessary to succeed in this new environment.

“Automation, forever a major determinant of the nature and availability of work, will continue to reshape the work people do and the opportunities they are afforded,” the report said.

“While our analysis shows that the next phase of the automation era may not be as dystopian as the most dire voices claim, plenty of people and places will be affected, and much will need to be done to mitigate the coming stresses.”

In order to manage the changes that will come with AI and automation, academic institutions, as well as healthcare organizations and entities of other industries, will need to take a new approach to learning and skill development. New methods of education and learning will need to start within organizations, the authors said.

“Change will most naturally and urgently begin within companies, where firms and their existing workers will mutually experience the need for skills changes. An important starting point will be to increase the prevalence of employer-led training,” the report stated.

“Employer-led trainings can improve firm output, enhance workers’ career prospects, and help companies fill emerging critical needs.”

Governments should also incentivize on-the-job training and tuition assistance, the authors said, which will help establish an environment of lifelong learning and skill development.

In academic and training settings, leaders should refine and scale up their technology and coding education efforts.

“Colleges and universities must also overhaul curricula in computer science and related fields. In this regard, expanded course offerings in hardcore technical fields like computer, data, and cognitive science will grow in importance,” the report stated.

In addition to changing education and skills development, healthcare stakeholders should create a culture that embraces technology-based growth.

“One response to the trends detailed here might seem to be to curb technology-driven change. Leaders should resist this impulse,” the authors advised.

“Instead, while committing to a just and beneficial transition, they should embrace tech and indeed automation to generate the economic productivity needed to increase both living standards and the demand for labor in non-automated tasks.”

To facilitate this kind of culture, federal leaders should develop initiatives that will support the development of innovative technologies, which will drive productivity growth.

“The federal government needs to increase research and development funding on AI, automation, and associated technologies in order to ensure that technology develops effectively and humanely,” the report said.

“Also critical are urgent investments in the development of effective human-AI collaboration; humane and ethical automation and AI; and the legal and societal implications of these technologies.”

While the healthcare industry may not necessarily experience drastic changes due to AI and automation in the future, stakeholders should be prepared to facilitate changes in education and training to achieve success in this new, technology-driven landscape.

“AI and automation will likely have many positive impacts on the U.S. economy, despite the uncertainty and disquiet they are currently engendering. The trick is going to be to recall as a nation that technology change doesn’t ‘just happen’, but that it can be shaped,” the report concluded.

“The nation needs to commit to deep-set educational changes, new efforts to help workers and communities adjust to change, and a more serious commitment to reducing hardships for those who are struggling. If the nation can commit to its people in this way, a future full of machines will seem much more tolerable.”

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