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Be careful about using generative AI to provide information to patients

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Be careful about using generative AI to provide information to patients

The quality and accuracy of the content may leave something to be desired, with serious risks. The case of Wikipedia and its position on content generated with AI.

Among the possible applications of generative artificial intelligence in healthcare, providing information and recommendations on treatments is one of the most popular at the moment. In fact, many hospitals and healthcare institutions are experimenting and even starting to use generative AI tools to satisfy the legitimate curiosity of patients and their desire to know more about their health and the pathologies they suffer from.

Rather than committing to producing content, a long and tiring job, it is in fact much simpler to entrust this task to artificial intelligence which, thanks to the quantity of documents and information processed, is in theory capable of carrying out this task very well. A convenient and economical shortcut capable of finally giving an answer to do-it-yourself patients who surf the web to find what they want to know.

I must confess that, like all the professionals I believe, I have also tried to put some of these tools to the test, with different results but never 100% reliable. After all, they are algorithms that select contents on a probabilistic basis and on the basis of what they “have learned”. Paradoxically, if in the use of AI in formulating diagnoses for doctors a small margin of error is acceptable also because even doctors sometimes make mistakes, when it comes to providing information to patients, perhaps without any further filter, the matter becomes it becomes more serious and dangerous.

The reliability of content has been a topic that has been at the center of attention for some time and does not only concern healthcare. I was struck by reading about Wikipedia’s decision to deem the technology news site CNET no longer a “reliable source.” The position was taken after a long debate among the editors of the collaborative encyclopedia that began at the beginning of last year, following concerns that arose when it emerged that CNET had begun publishing a series of articles written by artificial intelligence starting from month of November 2022 created by a generative AI, signed by a generic “CNET Money Staff” and without making it explicit that they were articles written by the AI. The articles, however, were full of errors and inaccuracies, forcing the editorial staff to carry out numerous revisions and corrections, until the initiative was suspended after the fact became public knowledge. After a debate among Wikipedia editors, the decision was made that CNET could no longer be considered a reliable source.

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Wikipedia’s decision must, in my opinion, also make us reflect because, after all, CNET deals with technological innovation and not with healthcare (even if it has a wellness section). AI truly has great potential but we must not get caught up in easy enthusiasm or the convenience of shortcuts. Health information and education are serious business.

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