Most of the cases that a medical malpractice lawyer accepts involve preventable human error. Human error – lapses in judgement, mistakes caused by distraction, communication errors, etc. – is the primary risk factor in medical settings, which is why artificial intelligence (AI) researchers believe cutting-edge technology could significantly improve outcomes in the Canadian healthcare system.

AI systems are capable of processing and analyzing vast troves of data, including personal health records and medical imaging. Whereas doctors must base diagnoses on a combination of experience and education, AI systems can review tens of millions of data points, including nuances invisible to the human eye, to form more robust conclusions.

“If you train (the systems) on 100,000 examples, then you’re about as good as a dermatologist at that, maybe slightly better,” said Geoffrey Hinton, chief scientific advisor at the Vector Institute of Artificial Intelligence and head of Google’s Brain Team in Toronto, to the Canadian Press. “We know that if you were to train on 10 million examples, you’d be much better than the best dermatologist.”

“It doesn’t worry if the dog is barking at the neighbour’s or there’s domestic distractions or a bad night of sleep,” added former University of Toronto President Dr. David Naylor.

Does this mean that doctors and nurses will soon be redundant? Or that medical malpractice cases will be a thing of the past? Most experts stress that AI systems are far from infallible. Not only will a human touch remain necessary in healthcare settings, but even the most advanced technologies are capable of delivering misdiagnoses or recommending ineffective or dangerous treatments.

“These are enormously important tools in support of an efficient health-care system,” Naylor explained. “They don’t supplant physicians and nurses en masse. Caring still matters. Much of this will involve high touch, as well as high tech.”

From a medical malpractice lawyer’s perspective, liability will be a major concern as more AI permeates the healthcare system. Just as the insurance industry will need to evolve around the emergence of autonomous vehicles (which also use AI), malpractice lawyers will have to address novel liability issues. Should hospitals be responsible for misdiagnoses delivered by machines, or should the system’s manufacturer assume liability? Should its technicians and programmers share the blame?

New technologies are shaping the future of a myriad of industries, including the automotive sector and healthcare. Their potential is unquestioned: machine learning can help Canadian doctors save lives by diagnosing illnesses more quickly and more accurately. But new technologies are not without risks; when injuries inevitably occur, effective rules must be in place to ensure victims have access to fair and reasonable compensation.

If you or a member of your family have been injured in a medical accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers to consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.

Greg Neinstein