Artificial Intelligence Developments in Healthcare

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AI is here to stay. The development and use of artificial intelligence (“AI”) is rapidly growing in the healthcare landscape with no signs of slowing down.

From a governmental perspective, many federal agencies are embracing the possibilities of AI. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is exploring the ability of AI to estimate sentinel events and combat disease outbreaks and the National Institutes of Health is using AI for priority research areas. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is also assessing whether algorithms used by plans and providers to identify high risk patients and manage costs can introduce bias and restrictions. Additionally, as of December 2023, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration cleared more than 690 AI-enabled devices for market use.

From a clinical perspective, payers and providers are integrating AI into daily operations and patient care. Hospitals and payers are using AI tools to assist in billing. Physicians are using AI to take notes and a wide range of providers are grappling with which AI tools to use and how to deploy AI in the clinical setting. With the application of AI in clinical settings, the standard of patient care is evolving and no entity wants to be left behind.

From an industry perspective, the legal and business spheres are transforming as a result of new national and international regulations focused on establishing the safe and effective use of AI, as well as commercial responses to those regulations. Three such regulations are top of mind, including (i) President Biden’s Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of AI; (ii) the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (“HHS”) Final Rule on Health Data, Technology, and Interoperability; and (iii) the World Health Organization’s (“WHO”) Guidance for Large Multi-Modal Models of Generative AI. In response to the introduction of regulations and the general advancement of AI, interested healthcare stakeholders, including many leading healthcare companies, have voluntarily committed to a shared goal of responsible AI use.

U.S. Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of AI

On October 30, 2023, President Biden issued an Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of AI (“Executive Order”). Though long-awaited, the Executive Order was a major development and is one of the most ambitious attempts to regulate this burgeoning technology. The Executive Order has eight guiding principles and priorities, which include (i) Safety and Security; (ii) Innovation and Competition; (iii) Commitment to U.S. Workforce; (iv) Equity and Civil Rights; (v) Consumer Protection; (vi) Privacy; (vii) Government Use of AI; and (viii) Global Leadership. 

Notably for healthcare stakeholders, the Executive Order directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology to establish guidelines and best practices for the development and use of AI and directs HHS to develop an AI Task force that will engineer policies and frameworks for the responsible deployment of AI and AI-enabled tech in healthcare. In addition to those directives, the Executive Order highlights the duality of AI with the “promise” that it brings and the “peril” that it has the potential to cause. This duality is reflected in HHS directives to establish an AI safety program to prioritize the award of grants in support of AI development while ensuring standards of nondiscrimination are upheld.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Data, Technology, and Interoperability Rule

In the wake of the Executive Order, the HHS Office of the National Coordinator finalized its rule to increase algorithm transparency, widely known as HT-1, on December 13, 2023. With respect to AI, the rule promotes transparency by establishing transparency requirements for AI and other predictive algorithms that are part of certified health information technology. The rule also:

  • implements requirements to improve equity, innovation, and interoperability;
  • supports the access, exchange, and use of electronic health information;
  • addresses concerns around bias, data collection, and safety;
  • modifies the existing clinical decision support certification criteria and narrows the scope of impacted predictive decision support intervention; and
  • adopts requirements for certification of health IT through new Conditions and Maintenance of Certification requirements for developers.

Voluntary Commitments from Leading Healthcare Companies for Responsible AI Use

Immediately on the heels of the release of HT-1 came voluntary commitments from leading healthcare companies on responsible AI development and deployment. On December 14, 2023, the Biden Administration announced that 28 healthcare provider and payer organizations signed up to move toward the safe, secure, and trustworthy purchasing and use of AI technology. Specifically, the provider and payer organizations agreed to:

  • develop AI solutions to optimize healthcare delivery and payment;
  • work to ensure that the solutions are fair, appropriate, valid, effective, and safe (“F.A.V.E.S.”);
  • deploy trust mechanisms to inform users if content is largely AI-generated and not reviewed or edited by a human;
  • adhere to a risk management framework when utilizing AI; and use of AI technology. Specifically, the provider and payer organizations agreed to:
  • develop AI solutions to optimize healthcare delivery and payment;
  • work to ensure that the solutions are fair, appropriate, valid, effective, and safe (“F.A.V.E.S.”);
  • deploy trust mechanisms to inform users if content is largely AI-generated and not reviewed or edited by a human;
  • adhere to a risk management framework when utilizing AI; and
  • research, investigate, and develop AI swiftly but responsibly.

WHO Guidance for Large Multi-Modal Models of Generative AI

On January 18, 2024, the WHO released guidance for large multi-modal models (“LMM”) of generative AI, which can simultaneously process and understand multiple types of data modalities such as text, images, audio, and video. The WHO guidance contains 98 pages with over 40 recommendations for tech developers, providers and governments on LMMs, and names five potential applications of LMMs, such as (i) diagnosis and clinical care; (ii) patient-guided use; (iii) administrative tasks; (iv) medical education; and (v) scientific research. It also addresses the liability issues that may arise out of the use of LMMs.

Closely related to the WHO guidance, the European Council’s agreement to move forward with a European Union AI Act (“Act”), was a significant milestone in AI regulation in the European Union. As previewed in December 2023, the Act will inform how AI is regulated across the European Union, and other nations will likely take note of and follow suit. 

Conclusion

There is no question that AI is here to stay. But how the healthcare industry will look when AI is more fully integrated still remains to be seen. The framework for regulating AI will continue to evolve as AI and the use of AI in healthcare settings changes. In the meantime, healthcare stakeholders considering or adopting AI solutions should stay abreast of developments in AI to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

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