EO Advisor

How AI Supports Healthcare

Right Here, Right Now in Western North Carolina
doctors in meeting using artificial intelligence.

The most discussed theme at this year’s World Economic Forum was AI as a driving force for society.

Ruth Porat, the CFO of Alphabet Inc., made it personal when she talked about her own experience with breast cancer. Ms. Porat asked her oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering if Google’s work to use AI for diagnosing breast cancer was “really as important as I hope?”

The answer was that AI is democratizing healthcare; “It’s the only way that oncologists everywhere, radiologists everywhere, all of the medical profession, has the ability to leverage the insight that AI will give you through reviewing a million scans.” (Source) 

Ruth Porat’s epiphany is exciting because it brings global attention to a powerful enhancement for breast cancer diagnostics. This was covered as “breaking news” but here in Asheville, physicians at ARA Health Specialists, (an Electronic Office client) have already been using AI for a few years to improve diagnostic capabilities. 

The speed and scope of change brought about by AI seems like a daunting challenge. So, we sat down with Joseph Guiffrida, the COO of ARA, to get some insights about his company’s adoption of AI. 

Joe told us that the RSNA (Radiological Society of North America) began introducing AI vendors and even dedicated space to these vendors at their annual conference going back to 2018. 

Dr. David Hodges set ARA’s standards for AI tools with a deceptively simple challenge:  “I want to know two things: Can this AI tool make me better and can this tool make me faster?”  With that goal in mind, Joe told us:

“ARA Health started reviewing many AI tools in 2018 and started using some of them in 2019. We did a great deal of retrospective analysis and peer reviewed studies. Asking AI tools to diagnose the initial scans to see how well the tools gave feedback that aligned with the actual outcomes of prior cases impressed us in a powerful way.”

Today’s headlines about AI always offer up a bit of fearmongering about taking away jobs. Joe was willing to share some insights about that concern. 

“At first, some radiologists were asking if a computer was going to take their job but it is clear today that AI is a set of tools that empower the doctors to do their jobs. Nobody feels threatened anymore. Instead, they feel empowered… In many cases these tools have been developed by radiologists for radiologists.”

We asked Joe for some insights into the role of AI now that it has become a stable and integral part of their practice.

“The depth of experience with AI tools is critical because AI does generate false positives. On the other hand, AI gives our doctors peace-of-mind because they hate thinking that they might have missed something subtle. Far better to double check a false positive result than to worry whether or not you might have missed something.”

“In certain scenarios, a radiologist might prioritize the evaluation of the most critical concern during an urgent situation. Meanwhile, AI is capable of comprehensively examining the entire imaging dataset consistently. For instance, when addressing a patient with specified rib or chest pain, concentrated attention on that area may inadvertently lead to confirmation bias, potentially causing oversight of secondary or primary fractures elsewhere. By leveraging AI, radiologists can swiftly analyze the entire rib cage, allowing them to allocate their expertise to other areas of anatomy that demand more specialized attention.”

“When you apply that example of the rib cage to a life-threatening situation like intercranial hemorrhaging in the brain, the imaging specialist is extremely diligent and yet, the concern that something as tiny as a few blood cells might be missed is always there. Even if AI generates a few false positives, double checking everything that the AI tool flags can be life saving for the patient and it sure helps the doctor feel more comfortable that nothing was missed.” 

There are many AI platforms that are emerging in the healthcare industry, so we asked ARA about the ones that they find most helpful. The answer: AIDoc (one of the first companies with FDA approved AI algorithms,) and Ferrum Health. 

With all the buzz about AI, it’s natural to wonder what’s hype and what’s real. Yet here in Asheville, one of our leading healthcare organizations is already applying AI in powerful ways and gaining meaningful experience. It’s reassuring to know that ARA’s patients are benefiting from leading edge technology and speaks to ARA’s excellence that doctors are leveraging AI to improve outcomes right here in the mountains. 

EO Advisor thanks ARA and especially Joe Guiffrida for the time and insights that made this article possible. 

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