Blog: Looking to the future: don’t let AI fall victim to fake news
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Heart and Circulatory Diseases has conducted an inquiry that focuses on peoples’ thoughts about and attitudes to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare.
In an era of ‘fake news’, it’s crucial that we can build understanding based on fact to assess the opportunities and challenges.
If we don’t, we run the risk of following the ‘anti-vaxxers’ (people who refuse vaccinations for themselves or their children) movement that costs lives. The World Health Organization (WHO) named anti-vaccine sentiment as one of the ten biggest threats to global health for 2019. According to the WHO, this can be attributed to a lack of confidence in vaccination partially fuelled by a surge of ‘fake news’.
You just need to look to former British doctor, Andrew Wakefield, as an example of the dangers of fake news in spreading anti-vaccine sentiment. The former gastroenterologist authored a discredited research paper claiming there was a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine with autism and bowel disease. He has since been struck off by the UK medical register for unethical behaviour, misconduct and dishonesty.
This is just one example of how misinformation can be spread in popular conceptions of health and care.
This high profile example emphasises how important it is for facts to be established early — otherwise we risk the vacuum being filled with half-truths and conspiracies. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in medicine has the potential to transform lives, and it is now critical that its use is not undermined by misinformation.
This is why the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Heart and Circulatory Diseases has conducted an inquiry supported by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to highlight the need to better consider peoples thoughts on AI in healthcare.
Our report ‘Putting patients at the heart of artificial intelligence’ presents a case for actively engaging the public during the development and adoption of these data-driven technologies. This will ensure that they do not fall victim to the kinds of crises of public confidence that have hindered or derailed previous scientific advances.
As part of the inquiry, we held a series of roundtable discussions with patients and policy makers and surveyed people living with heart and circulatory diseases to better understand their views on AI. A consistent theme which emerged was that public engagement and raising awareness should be proactive rather than reactive.
Treatment of heart and circulatory diseases has come a long way because of extraordinary strides in research over the past half century. But unfortunately, it is estimated that there are over seven million people with heart and circulatory diseases in the UK and this number is still far too high.
At the BHF we believe using AI to its full potential could offer significant opportunities in improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of people with heart and circulatory conditions. That is why the BHF is committed to investigating these technologies by funding research.
Take Declan O’Regan, a researcher that we are currently funding. Alongside his team, Declan is working to find out if AI techniques can accurately predict the future prognosis of people with heart failure so that they can receive the best possible treatment. Declan and his team are using AI to interpret thousands of heart scans to build a 3D heart before ‘training’ the computer to recognise the earliest signs of heart failure.
It is all very well recognising the potential benefits of AI, but now it is crucial that we bridge the gap between the latest technology developments and the understanding of the people who will benefit from them.
To ensure that there is an ongoing conversation between the healthcare sector and the public, the NHS, charities and Government all have responsibilities to communicate the latest developments in AI.
Failing this, we risk leaving a void that is filled with fake news — to everyone’s loss
The APPG’s report will be launched in parliament on Wednesday 1st May. To find out more about the APPG visit: https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/influencing-change/appg-on-heart-and-circulatory-disease
If you liked this, you can follow the BHF publication on Medium and check out more BHF-funded research here:
What actually is AI? How does it work? And should we be frightened of it?blog.bhf.org.uk