From the CEO

Artificial intelligence: Making healthcare better for patients

As I look back on my 40 years in medicine and think about the many technological advancements I have seen during that time, I am particularly optimistic about the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on physicians’ ability to deliver quality care. At the same time, I recognize there are a number of unknowns about AI, both in healthcare and more generally, which creates uncertainty for both physicians and patients.

At the CMPA, we often talk about the importance of trust in the delivery of care. If we are to realize its potential benefits, trust in AI will also be essential. Patients will need to trust that AI helps physicians make the right decisions, and physicians will need to trust that AI produces reliable results. A high level of trust is more likely to be achieved when the same approach to AI is employed as with new medical devices and medicines, that is, through rigorous testing and evidence-based approvals—and by including the humanity and empathy physicians bring to patient care.

At this year’s CMPA Annual Meeting and Conference, our information session focused on how physicians and other health providers might use AI-enabled technologies to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of care. Our keynote speaker, Dr. David Naylor, professor of medicine and President Emeritus at the University of Toronto and one of Canada’s foremost thinkers on this topic, presented his insights into the current and future use of AI in medicine. In my remarks, I noted that, despite best efforts, AI technologies may lead to medical-legal difficulties for some of our members and that the CMPA is committed to assisting physicians both proactively and in response to any difficulty that may arise.

First, we are committed to improving the safety of care, and we look forward to working with industry, governments, regulators, medical organizations and others to ensure that the upside potential of AI is fully captured while avoiding the downside risks. With our experience in medical-legal matters, we can meaningfully contribute to the development of any required legislation, regulations, and policies.

Second, we know change can be difficult, and the CMPA’s education programs and advice help to empower physicians to explore and apply AI-enabled decision support tools with the confidence that appropriate use of these tools advances the goal of quality care.

Third, in the event there is a medical-legal difficulty arising from the use of AI, we will continue to provide physicians with trusted advice and assistance, including for College matters and civil litigation.

These are still early days for AI in healthcare, and much work remains to evolve and scale it for widespread use, including ensuring the necessary legal and regulatory frameworks are in place. As we look to the future, we should be both excited and realistic about what AI can and cannot do, and not lose sight of the key question: “Will this make care better for our patients?” If the answer is positive, we have a responsibility to adopt this technology thoughtfully, knowing the CMPA will be there to provide you, our members, with the support you need.

Hartley Stern
MD, FRCSC, FACS, ICD.D