Leadership

New Association Focused on AI in Healthcare Launches

By / Apr 24, 2018

As more tech giants eye the medical establishment, the Partnership for Automation and Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare spots a niche.

The former head of the American Telemedicine Association has created new group to support the rapid expansion of artificial intelligence technology in healthcare.

The Partnership for Automation and Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare, which launched last month, is the brainchild of Jonathan Linkous, who left his position as CEO at ATA last August after leading that organization for 24 years. His goal in his new role as PATH CEO, he said, is to help make AI an integral part of the medical establishment. “It really seems to me that artificial intelligence and robotics and automation are very much today where telemedicine was some 15, 20 years ago,” he said.

“It’s not unusual at all for an intensivist or critical care doctor to use computer algorithms.”

Corporate announcements in the early months of 2018 have put a spotlight on the growing interest in using algorithmic tools to support healthcare providers. Large technology firms like Apple and Google are entering the space, and a consortium made up of Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway has sparked speculation that it will use big-data tools to improve healthcare decision making for its employees. Last month’s annual conference for HIMSS, the leading healthcare IT association, also put a spotlight on AI.

But Linkous said the time is right because AI is already having an influence in hospital corridors. “In radiology and pathology, we’ve had some levels of artificial intelligence for quite a few years, such as in interpreting imaging,” he said. “It’s not unusual at all for an intensivist or critical-care doctor to use computer algorithms to help sort through a patient’s issues and help them make decisions.”

Though this is the second association Linkous has headed in response to emerging technology, he said creating a new association is different now than it was nearly a quarter-century ago. The biggest shift, he said, is in terms of staffing: For now, PATH is contracting rather than hiring, and not using a central office. “I ran ATA mostly as a traditional office, and I decided for this one, people would rather be wherever they want to live and bring the work in electronically,” he said. “In large corporations, that’s done almost all the time now.”

Another difference is PATH’s structure, which is a trade group that includes both healthcare and technology firms, alongside a for-profit publishing arm that will launch a new journal on the topic. The association’s first conference also is scheduled for September.

Linkous acknowledged that PATH isn’t alone in targeting professionals in the healthcare-IT space, but said the association’s focus on clinical practitioners and an emphasis on how AI is realistically used in medical environments gives it valuable niche. And he said that will give the association value in the long run.

“We don’t expect it to fill a convention center the first year or two, but that’s OK, because we’re action-oriented,” he said. “If I have a target at all, it’s not necessarily related to the size but the function of the organization. In AI, there’s a huge amount of hype, both negative and positive. I think part of our role is to sort through that and to identify what’s real and what’s not.”

Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. More »

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