Three Strategies for Navigating Communications Around Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly important in healthcare. While the capabilities seem endless and continue to grow, we haven’t seen AI fully implemented in clinical practice, which has contributed to a lack of clarity on the function AI has and will continue to have in the healthcare space.  

The number of academic papers published on AI has steadily increased in the past decade. According to an analysis done by MIT Technology Review through one of the largest open-source databases of scientific papers, arXiv, 3,697 papers were published in 2018. That’s compared to 1,108 in 2014. These numbers still only represent a small part of the work being done in the space.

In the health industry, AI will be more easily adapted by some medical specialties than others. Currently, pathology, oncology and radiology are leading the way in utilizing these tools to provide clinicians with meaningful information so they can better care for their patients.

While there are still barriers to full adoption in clinical practice, this can present additional challenges of communicating the role and benefit of AI in healthcare to key audiences.

So, how can you clearly navigate AI in healthcare to help your brand stand out and provide clarity in a crowded industry?

Translate complex language

One of the unique roles of communicators is to convey the messages and work of your business to its audiences. The healthcare field on its own has complex language and jargon that can make clear communication a challenge—combine that with a new and emerging science such as AI, and the messaging may become particularly difficult for the public to digest. It’s important to fully understand the key takeaways the business is trying to get across and be able to explain what it means, for the industry, clinicians and, most importantly, for patients.

Demonstrate expertise

Journalists are experts on the topics they cover. By consistently reporting on the latest news and trends in their specific beats, reporters are well-aware of what’s newsworthy and what’s noise. Building relationships with reporters in the health tech space and offering introductions to a company’s key experts who can discuss their company’s specific AI offerings in-depth and explain the science behind them can help to establish the business as a key source and player to watch.

Understand potential risks

Regulatory bodies like the U.S. FDA are still catching up with technology, offering proposed frameworks for evaluating AI and machine learning software. But with a current lack of definite guidelines and many concerns around data privacy, it is understandable that public trust in artificial intelligence—especially when it comes to health data—is not well-established.

In addition, if an AI algorithm gets it wrong, which has occurred in the past, the stakes are high. Patients can potentially be harmed, either by receiving too little, too much or the wrong type of care. There is also the risk for data bias, which can lead to unequal treatment for patients. Prepare your client by developing reactive messaging that can be utilized in the case reporters may have questions about what they are doing to ensure data privacy and the accuracy of their algorithms, as well as their overall commitment to the end goal – which is to improve outcomes for patients.

AI will only continue to become more advanced and further implemented in healthcare settings. The buzz around it will continue to expand. As this happens, it will be vital for public relations and communications professionals to be able to offer strategic counsel on how to clearly communicate in this constantly evolving and important space.

This post was contributed by SHIFT sister agency AXON’s Kelley Simon, Account Supervisor.

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