• Industry News
  • Law & Malpractice
  • Coding & Documentation
  • Practice Management
  • Finance
  • Technology
  • Patient Engagement & Communications
  • Billing & Collections
  • Staffing & Salary

Transparency key to allaying healthcare AI fears


Artificial intelligence in medicine is causing uncertainty and fear for physicians and other clinicians. Here’s how leaders can use open communication to develop trust in the workforce.

artificial intelligence | © witesun - stock.adobe.com

© witesun - stock.adobe.com

Even before the pandemic unleashed a curveball like no other in our lifetime, physicians, nurses, and other health care workers were at the end of their collective rope. A wide-range of challenges had already pushed them to their limit. Then the pandemic came along, magnifying exponentially issues like staffing shortages, and worker and patient safety.

Today the health care landscape is an unforgiving battleground, where resilience is tested almost by the minute. The primary adversaries: Stress and burnout.

The passion and extraordinary dedication inherent among these professionals has gradually eroded, causing an all-out crisis. Frontline workers are leaving in droves as there seems to be no end in sight to the factors that are seriously degrading their well-being.

All of this, however, is now its own adversity backdrop as yet another factor dumps into the laps of those responsible for keeping us healthy. The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) is presenting an entirely new set of challenges, compounding the already fragile state of the health care workforce.

While it holds tremendous promise, AI is adding yet another layer of complexity. There is an urgent need to address the stress and burnout crisis head-on, tackling fundamental issues that existed long before AI arrived as a disruptive force. If leadership neglects this situation much longer, the erosion of the very foundation upon which health care is built is at risk.

AI in health care: A double-edged sword?

AI holds great promise in helping to solve some of the factors causing such unprecedented burnout among professionals in medicine. Before we can realize all of that potential, however, we have to wade through the many questions AI’s emergence has thrown onto the table.

There are very real concerns that AI will displace workers, ultimately taking jobs. This uncertainty has triggered its own anxiety as workers ponder whether or not they’ll still have a job or if they’ll be replaced by an algorithm. For an industry known for dedication and passion, this is just another factor that will further damage the foundation of this critically important work. On top of this, there are other anxiety driving concerns around AI being used directly in patient care. Integrating AI into care raises apprehensions about its reliability and impact on the doctor-patient relationship. Then there’s the curveball thrown at the workforce in learning how to use and work with AI. This learning curve adds to the pressure, demanding rapid upskilling and adaptation from professionals who are already stretched thin.

With all the concerns here driving more anxiety, there are benefits being opened up with AI integration too.

Advanced algorithms and data analysis empower AI to augment diagnostic accuracy, expedite treatment decisions, and uncover subtle patterns. Administrative tasks can be streamlined through AI-powered tools, reducing the burden on workers and allowing more focus on direct patient care. Furthermore, AI-driven research and precision medicine enable personalized treatments and breakthrough discoveries by analyzing vast medical data.

The unknown driving fear

While the future holds plenty of AI-related advantages for the workforce down the road, we first need to guide them through these immediate issues that are driving stress and burnout.

The main theme behind many of these concerns is uncertainty. From, “I’m afraid AI could take my job”, to “How is AI going to change patient care?” and, “What do I need to know to leverage AI in my work?” – the driving force behind all the AI-related anxiety in health care is the unknown. Leadership bears crucial responsibility here and if they fail to relieve the added mental burden of AI, the situation dogging frontline workers in physicians' offices, emergency rooms, operating rooms, clinics, and beyond will only get worse.

Whether it’s deliberate or not, there’s an alarming lack of openness in this regard. Open discussion and conversation about these concerns is critical. Never has transparency been so needed across the board in an industry. Leaders must act quickly, openly, and honestly, communicating about the impact of AI, its potential benefits, and how it will change peoples’ jobs. Transparency fosters trust and reduces the uncertainty that is taking hold.

Shining ‘light’ calms nerves

Communication is key to achieving the kind of transparency that will build trust between the health care workforce and its leadership.

There are numerous ways to bring better transparency here:

  1. Be clear on purpose and benefits. Leaders should proactively communicate purpose, goals, and possible benefits of implementing AI into the health care workplace.
  2. Offer training and education. Training and education in regard to AI concepts, capabilities, limitations, impact on health care workers roles and patient care.
  3. Foster a culture of openness. Establish channels for feedback and AI implementation, create forums for employees to share their perspectives, listen to feedback, address questions, and incorporate their input into the decision-making processes.
  4. Provide clear guidelines and policies. Develop and communicate clear guidelines and policies on the use of AI in health care. Outline expectations, responsibilities, and ethical considerations. Ensure the workforce understands the rules and procedures.
  5. Demonstrate the value of human-AI collaboration. Emphasize the importance of human expertise and the role of AI as a supportive tool rather than a replacement for human judgment.

Transparency isn’t hard, but it can be uncomfortable at times. It simply requires commitment and determination; it’s a complete cultural shift that will improve trust.

But there are other things leadership can do, like wellness coaching, regular check-ins and one-on-ones, and even employee surveys. These also take time and commitment; a consistent approach here can make the situation infinitely better, or an inconsistent one can break it even more.

Tech to address tech concerns

While such solutions are important and proven to help, even these won’t entirely solve the jitters AI is causing within the medical field. They’re being hit with stressors from all angles, not just from AI, and having a tool that allows employees and their bosses to build awareness 24/7 is critical in helping the health care workforce through these unprecedented times.

The good news is that technology is emerging as an important tool in helping employees and their bosses better manage stress and burnout, even giving them better opportunities to get in front of problems before they spiral into all-out emergencies.

Recently, Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine released a study that finds support for wearable devices, like the FitBit or Apple Watch, to track stressors.

The study finds that these devices are an invaluable way to monitor and assess psychological states, with great ease, saving everyone time, getting to the root causes of stress more quickly. Fierce is pioneering this space with the Pulse app, doing exactly what the Mount Sinai study advocates in health care settings. Using biometrics from a user’s wearable device like heart-rate variability, apps can connect a stressor to a place and time, integrating with calendar and GPS data. This level of insight, coupled with coaching, builds stress awareness, and ultimately improves resilience in the health care setting. Technology like this is even succeeding in bringing stress down by up to 40% for some individuals!

Given the scope of the mental health crisis among physicians and other health care workers, leveraging every tool available is critical, especially as AI tees up more stress, as we wait for the next shoe to drop.

Edward J. Beltran is CEO of global leadership development and training company Fierce, developers of the Pulse app to help employees and employers understand stress in the workplace. A disruptor in workplace culture, he is bringing decades of experience to bear by merging technology and workforce development. He and his team developed the Pulse app to give employers critical insights into their teams’ well-being to improve both health and productivity.

Related Videos
MGMA comments on automation of prior authorizations
Erin Jospe, MD gives expert advice
A group of experts discuss eLearning
Three experts discuss eating disorders
Navaneeth Nair gives expert advice
Navaneeth Nair gives expert advice
Navaneeth Nair gives expert advice
Matt Michaela gives expert advice
Matthew Michela gives expert advice
Matthew Michela gives expert advice
© 2024 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.