Artificial Intelligence November 15, 2023

The Double-Edged Sword of AI in Healthcare: A Call for Vigilance Against Misinformation

by Barry P Chaiken, MD

Healthcare artificial intelligence (AI) stands as a beacon of innovation and efficiency for patient care. However, a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine casts a shadow on this technological marvel, revealing a concerning facet: the potential misuse of AI in propagating health misinformation. This revelation is a technological challenge and a potential public health crisis.

The study utilized a publicly accessible large-language AI model (LLM) to create an alarming array of misinformation. Within a mere 65 minutes, the LLM generated 102 blog articles comprising over 17,000 words, spreading false narratives about vaccines and vaping. These articles, tailored to various demographic groups, were not mere fabrications but sophisticated deceptions complete with fake patient and clinician testimonials and pseudo-scientific references. The ease and speed with which the researchers created this misinformation, using tools available to anyone, underscore the threat to the public’s health.

The implications of this study are profound. In an era where information is as influential as the treatments we prescribe, the unchecked spread of AI-generated misinformation could undermine public health efforts, erode trust in healthcare systems, increase healthcare costs, and, ultimately, endanger lives. 

The study serves as a clarion call for the healthcare community, AI developers, and regulatory bodies to institute robust measures ensuring the ethical use of AI. This includes establishing stringent guardrails akin to those in pharmacovigilance, encompassing transparency, continuous surveillance, and regulation.

As healthcare professionals, we must recognize the dual nature of AI – as a tool for advancement and a potential vehicle for misinformation. The journey towards harnessing AI in healthcare is fraught with challenges, but we can navigate this complex terrain with collaborative efforts and a commitment to ethical practice. The future of healthcare depends not just on technological advancements but on our ability to use these tools responsibly and for the greater good.

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Comments 1
  • The health care system is undergoing the same growing pains relative to AI as most sectors in life today; manufacturing,power generation and distribution, information sharing etc.. I see no way to “regulate” it’s use unless it occurs at the source. With the demise of the Judaeo/Christian philosophy I hold no hope for “ethics” as what used to be a collective mindset has now become the ethics of the one. I fear it will only get worse. That is my cheerful message of the day!

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