Artificial Intelligence

Congress Must Act On Healthcare AI

Over the past 20 years, America has fully embraced the technological revolution, spurring an incredible economic boom. This revolution continues to be a driving force in our economy and allows for innovation in many fields, including the healthcare industry.
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Over the past 20 years, America has fully embraced the technological revolution, spurring an incredible economic boom. This revolution continues to be a driving force in our economy and allows for innovation in many fields, including the healthcare industry. As co-chair of the House Artificial Intelligence (AI) Caucus, it’s exciting to see how far we have come — and where we will go. 

Looking forward, the internet of things (IoT) will bring medical innovation through AI. As interconnectivity shapes our daily lives, the ability to provide top-rate, efficient and cost-effective healthcare to individuals is improving drastically. Through wearable devices and connected medical instruments, patients and doctors can work together to harness data to live fuller, healthier lives. 

We are already seeing this at the federal level. For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved an AI system to help diagnose diabetic retinopathy in adults. Although rare, diabetic retinopathy is the most common reason for vision loss among adults and is curable with the correct diagnosis and treatment. This technology can correctly diagnose this rare disease at an 87 percent success rate just by analyzing a picture of an eye. And the use of AI in healthcare is just getting started. The FDA is currently looking to update its standards and guidelines to make sure technology investment continues, saving lives, reducing incorrect diagnoses and decreasing recovery times. 

Healthcare leaders in Houston have not shied away from change, and they are leading the world into the future of healthcare. Texas Children’s Hospital and Rice University have partnered to help predict increased risk factors of diabetic ketoacidosis through the use of AI. Other healthcare providers in Texas are engaged as well. A recent tour of IBM’s Watson labs in Austin revealed progress on a system that monitors patients’ steps and movements. This critical data can determine potential health problems like bed sores or a urinary tract infection. By implementing this technology, seniors and folks with disabilities can experience greater quality of life, remain in their own homes for longer and save money. 

We are routinely asked, “How can the federal government help implement AI technology, and what changes are needed to encourage this innovation?” There are three main areas that Congress and the federal government can focus on to prepare us for the future. 

First, we must make data readily available to both the public and private sectors. AI algorithms are only as good as the data they receive. Right now, for intelligence operations, it takes roughly one million images for a machine to be trained to notice disparities. This type of mass data is hard to find and compile, but we could help reduce the overall learning time if the government helped provide data to both research universities and the private sector. This was also the cornerstone of President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on AI.

Second, we must get ahead of inherent fear. A quick Google search of “AI horror stories” reveals countless webpages claiming that AI will be the end of society as we know it. Folks are worried about losing their jobs, unintended bias in algorithms and the need for more transparency around AI. 

That’s why Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) and I introduced the Future of AI Act in the last Congress with Sens. Marie Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) leading in the Senate. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would create a working group under the Commerce Department to address many of these hot issues. I look forward to reintroducing this with Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) this Congress. The government must take a leading role. 

Finally, Congress and the federal government must review existing policies with the future and AI in mind. Today’s policy solutions won’t work for tomorrow. Working together, we can ensure the technological revolution continues to accelerate and save lives.  

Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas)

Congressman Pete Olson represents Texas’ 22nd Congressional District. He is co-chair of the House Artificial Intelligence (AI) Caucus.

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