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Is ChatGPT Safe for Healthcare?

Four healthcare leaders discuss opportunities, risks and possible pitfalls.

Boston Children’s recently posted a job description for an AI prompt engineer to join its Innovation and Digital Health Accelerator. The ideal candidate needs a “strong background in AI/ML, data science, and natural language processing, as well as experience in healthcare research and operations.”

This came only months after the November 2022 release of ChatGPT, which alerted the masses to the potential uses (and risks) of large language models (LLMs).

Even in a sector slow to embrace new digital technology that could potentially compromise patient privacy, AI’s promise to reshape healthcare has many cautiously testing the waters.

In a recent webinar from eHealthcare Strategy & Trends, four industry leaders discussed use cases and potential hazards of artificial intelligence that could dramatically alter work — and even the world as we know it.

How Do Large Language Models Like ChatGPT Work?

Simply put, LLMs apply different numbers to large bodies of context in a process called embedding. “They turn words into zeros and ones and then apply complex math to make predictions. But the outcome is only as good as the input,” says Ahava Leibtag, president of Aha Media Group.

How to Be Good Stewards of AI in Healthcare

Chris Hemphill, senior director of commercial intelligence at Woebot Health

This process allows the LLM to predict the next words based on the input. “If somebody inputs a string of text, predicting the next string of applicable numbers translates into applying deeper amounts of context in new and exciting ways,” says Chris Hemphill, senior director of commercial intelligence at Woebot Health.

That output is tested in real time in a data labeling process where humans are asked whether they like or dislike the response.

This can feel like magic to the end user, but it’s not without risk.

Leibtag likens LLMs to Greek mythology’s Prometheus, the Titan god of fire. Prometheus stole fire from the gods to give to human beings without recognizing its ability to destroy. “Like fire, this has incredibly destructive power, as well as exciting potential,” she says.

New Technology Offers Numerous Benefits to Healthcare Marketers

As healthcare leaders and employees experiment with LLMs, the future of healthcare can seem more like science fiction than reality. “You could imagine that one day you feed your genome, sleep habits, and exercise habits to produce a personalized healthcare plan. This will help doctors move away from being data clerks and back to becoming healers and practitioners,” says Leibtag.

For Chris Pace, chief digital marketing officer at Banner Health, the productivity potential for those working in healthcare marketing is massive. “We have a pretty lean team full of strategists and experts. For us, it’s the people, process, and technology that can make it all work together.”

Finding ways to alleviate the workload on overwhelmed marcom teams is key, says Alan Shoebridge, associate vice president of national communication at Providence. “We’ve been doing a lot the last three years, and burnout is high. Where can this take the edge off?”

Alan Shoebridge, associate vice president of national communication at Providence

Shoebridge’s team has experimented with using ChatGPT as a starting point for communications like press releases, meta descriptions, and summaries. “It’s not going to be the finished product we send out, but it lowers the burden of getting started,” he says.

Risks Still Far Outweigh the Benefits

The unknown journey down the artificial intelligence path poses risks for everyone, with some AI leaders — including ChatGPT’s CEO Sam Altman — warning about the extinction of all humanity. Treading carefully is especially important for the highly regulated healthcare industry, where legal, privacy, and cybersecurity intersect.

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