Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare: Who is Liable and Why

In a perfect world, both providers and patients would have total faith in artificial intelligence (AI) and its ability to diagnose and detect disease. (And while we’re at it, COVID-19 wouldn’t exist in a perfect world. But I digress …) However, even AI has to live within the limits of its imperfections. Mistakes are bound to happen, as are missed diagnoses and untreated diseases. It’s not a matter of IF, but rather WHEN it will happen. And when it does, the bigger question for providers is where liability lies: is it with the provider utilizing the AI system, or the company who built it? (1)

The line between user (provider) and developer is definitely blurry. One main dividing line is the law. A manufacturer may be exempt from state-level rulings if legislation exists at the federal level. This is called preemption(2). Potential liability does not only exist on the clinical side of healthcare. Operational and administrative functions, while they stand to make great gains in embracing AI, are also at risk for liability claims. Yet another factor is the patient side. When it comes to patients understanding and following provider instructions, the risk of liability has always existed. Will the introduction of AI protocols increase or decrease this risk? 

AI implementation has two main goals: reduce spending and improve patient outcomes. Overall, the goal is to piece together the puzzle known as the ‘iron triangle’ in the healthcare industry(3): balancing access, affordability, and effectiveness without adversely affecting each of the other factors. However, if users are constantly rechecking an AI’s prognosis, then what greater purpose does the AI serve? It’s not saving time or money at that point.   

If you haven’t already, now is the time to explore the AI applications that have potential within your practice. Research which options are best suited to your organization based on reliability, cost, ROI, personnel adoption, and patient readiness. Viewing all of these angles from the lens of risk mitigation will help you decide which AI applications to implement.

Contact us today. We can review your professional liability policy to ensure your coverage extends to the AI applications in your practice.


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