Dr Lloyd B. Minor, Dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine, believes that we have an extraordinary decade of AI ahead of us.
He was speaking at the recent EPPIC 2023 conferecne where he elaborated on AI and its impact on the healthcare sector. He was emphatic about how AI will help interpretation of data, designing hypotheses and suggesting experiments that will yield greater understanding and enhance the drug discovery process.
“It may very well reduce the time frame of discovery and of evaluation of discoveries and knowing how those may be applicable to the production of new therapeutics,” he said.
In a chat with indica, Dr Minor said he is not sure AI will reduce healthcare cost but AI already is playing an important role in the biopharma sector and will play an even more important role in the future.
“I think the next five to 10 years are going to be extraordinarily exciting. The application of AI to biopharma will reach more effective therapeutics to patients. At various levels, the biopharma industry is certainly making investments, hiring people, and exploring the way that AI can be deployed at all levels of the biopharma industry.
He said he is also acutely aware of the ethical questions that may arise on account of the rise of AI. “There are a number of ethical concerns,” he said. “Privacy of patients is important, as we begin to deploy large language models (LLMs). We have to make sure AI increases accessibility and equity, not reduce access and pose barriers to achieving health equity.”
At the EPPIC conference, Minor spoke about the game-changing applications of AI. In a session moderated by Anu Deshpande, he said, “AI is being used for the delivery of care since we migrated from paper records to electronic records. With electronic records, and in particular electronic prescribing, there’s AI monitoring for the correct dose according to the patient’s requirements and physical attributes. AI is also enabled to check for drug-drug interactions and alert physicians and the pharmacists,” Minor said.
The use of technological advances in healthcare is already showing results. Reducing preventable medical errors due to incorrect dosing of medications, for instance. “Now, we can take it up several levels and move from just using the electronic patient record as an electronic filing cabinet and start gleaning information from the advanced data in EMR systems for a better understanding of a patient with a rare disease and multiple symptoms, and suggesting what might be the best treatment.”
He said AI won’t make doctors obsolete. In fact, he pointed out how radiologists have used AI to improve their efficiency and accuracy. “Gradually, there’ll be a migration to those radiologists who are using AI in a constructive way.”
He said the “first ethical concern is protecting the privacy of patients. Before linking AI to healthcare records and other aspects of the field, preserving the patients’ privacy is going to have to be thought about much more carefully.”
He added, “The second concern has to do with the introduction of bias. Any AI is going to be dependent on how it’s trained. If an AI tool is trained on a demographically non-representative population, and you try to apply the AI to predict what’s needed for someone who wasn’t in that group, the conclusions may or may not have applicability. Bias in how you train the model will lead to bias in how the model predicts.”
Dr Minor also felt that AI should decrease inequities in healthcare. “It shouldn’t be deployed in a way where it increases disparities and inequities that are inherent in the system. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he said.
Replying to a question on whether AI can take over certain clinical tasks, Minor said: “AI will have a bigger role in the foreground, it is already playing a role in the background. What I don’t see it doing is somehow supplanting or displacing the doctor or provider-patient relationship. I do see a role for AI in enhancing the efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy, not in getting rid of the psychotherapists, or the psychologists.”
While talking about entrepreneurs, Minor said: “I think it is important to be open-minded to the positive potential of the application of AI, but also being cognizant of the pitfalls, staying up with the technology that for sure will be important for any entrepreneur. Thinking about how that technology can be deployed for real-world issues in healthcare and life sciences discovery today. And looking for that interface between advanced AI technology and a real-world problem. That’s where value creation is going to occur, and I think it will principally occur in an entrepreneurial environment. There will be a role for large companies in it. But as we’ve seen in the past in so many cases, individual entrepreneurs who have a laser-like focus, who go out and get the resources, both technology resources and the resources related to the problem they’re addressing, who pursue that with passion and dedication, there’s going to be definitely a place in the ecosystem for those entrepreneurs and their ideas to succeed. And I think those opportunities are growing.”