I don’t know a single marketer in healthcare who was prepared for what I have come to refer to as the artificial intelligence (AI) vector: the magnitude and precision with which everything became AI and AI became everything. Harvard headlines screamed, “Will You Still Have a Job When the Robots Arrive?” and Huffington Post headlines suggested we are expecting no less than “The Fourth Industrial Revolution.” From one day to the next, every corporate message and every communication had to include its take on this new superpower and what it holds for the entire industry.
I, for one, was not convinced. In my daily life, I use Google Maps and Waze — both very advanced AI algorithms — but do they translate to healthcare with such ease? Can a device answer previously unanswered questions in radiology? Can a computer get to a confident diagnosis faster than a practitioner? Are we ready to make decisions based on code and accept the consequences? In all the excitement, it became too easy for companies to cook up AI fantasies and serve unsuspecting customers. But is it serving us longer term — as patients, practitioners, health systems and commercial entities?
I believe the healthcare sector demands an added layer of authenticity. A reality check, if you will. In many industries, it’s probably acceptable to create images of data clouds spewing zeros and ones into complex-looking computers that are floating in what may appear to be (for lack of a better term) outer space. In healthcare, on the other hand, use of such imagery and accompanying captivating language is quite deceiving. As marketers and communication specialists, we may have taken it a step too far.
If you are following the AI vector in healthcare news, like me you may have recently noticed the first signs of change. There is so much focus on AI as “the thing.” At what point did we forget that AI is, in essence, an algorithm (a learning one, but still an algorithm) that serves as a means to an end? It is what you do with AI that gives it meaning.
Take a relatively new healthcare entrant, Google. It must come in strong (with very deep pockets) to claim a space. In May 2017, CNBC published a post stating “Google is training computers to predict when you might get sick.” Really? To an unsuspecting consumer, the flu may have just made its last appearance.
Slightly more experienced and very keen to dominate healthcare is IBM with Watson. In August 2015, we heard about how it could disrupt medical imaging. Citing no less than a turf war between radiologists and computers, this article, and many like it, created confusion and uncertainty among medical professionals. Fast forward two-and-a-half years and we are nowhere near passing the baton to intelligent machines. If anything, word is making its way to the surface with a former IBM Watson Health employee opening up about oversized marketing and advertising spend on AI with no real results.
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Author: || World Economic Forum