Ban on bot use when patient data involved

4 minute read

Perth’s South Metropolitan Health Service says it is working on a number of AI technology-based projects.

A Perth public health service has defended its move to ban hospital doctors from using an artificial intelligence chat bot technology in “work-related activity that includes any patient or potentially sensitive health service information”.

The South Metropolitan Health Service (SMHS) has publicly declared its support for the appropriate use of AI technology, saying the ban was not a directive to cease using AI technology all together.

SMHS chief executive Paul Forden told The Medical Republic in early May the service sent an email to all staff, reminding them of the importance of data integrity and patient confidentiality, as a precautionary measure.

“This was in response to one doctor being found to have used artificial intelligence bot technology to generate a patient discharge summary,” he said.

“There are no grounds to believe there has been any breach in anyone’s individual, identifiable patient confidential information. The information put into the AI program did not include patient identifiable information.”

The email, provided to The Medical Republic, was sent out on 8 May, titled “Restrictions on the use of ChatGPT”.

“While we are always looking for innovative ways to make administrative work more efficient, we must approach all new technology through the lens of data integrity and patient confidentiality,” the email, signed by Mr Forden, stated.

“That requires a considered decision and approval at an organisation level regarding the use of any new technology. Crucially, at this stage, there is no assurance of patient confidentiality when using AI bot technology such as ChatGPT, nor do we fully understand the security risks.

“For this reason, the used of AI technology, including ChatGPT, for work-related activity that includes any patient or potentially sensitive health service information must cease immediately.

“We recognise and value the use of AI technology in health, but this must be undertaken in a coordinated, considered and approved manner, to ensure the safety and security of staff, patients and our services.”

Mr Forden echoed these sentiments to TMR and said the service was working on projects that involved AI technology.

 “Voice-to-text is just one of many innovation projects currently being trialled at the South Metropolitan Health Service – this is as an automated dictation service to reduce clinical documentation workload, improve quality of documentation and clinician wellbeing,” he said.

“The highly advanced software uses sophisticated, artificial intelligence-based speech-recognition technology to enable clinicians to easily dictate medical records.

“So far, feedback among our participating staff has been overwhelmingly positive and we hope to roll this out across other clinical areas in our hospitals when we are confident it is safe and effective.”

Australian Medical Association president Professor Steve Robson told TMR that while AI had incredible potential to help with patient management, it also carried potential risks.

“We need to get the regulatory settings right, and we need to get doctors’ heads around it,” he said.

“These apps always run ahead of ethics and regulations. The technology is running way ahead of our understanding of it and there are always potential benefits and risks.”

He said AI and machine learning could improve diagnosis and management, but there was a risk that those developing the technology were only in it for profit.

“There are not a very large number of doctors involved in their development,” Professor Robson said.

“We encourage the development of responsible, forward-looking regulatory responses, and we’re doing all we can to raise awareness of the potential risks and benefits,” he said.

“I have no doubt that AI will run ahead so quickly from this point. The NEJM [New England Journal of Medicine] has been getting so many submissions about AI they’ve launched an entire journal for it.”

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