AI-Enhanced Anesthesiology Part Two: Educating Future Health Care Providers

In part one  of our examination of the development and integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in anesthesiology, we took a look at clinical initiatives related to enhancing patient care with AI technologies. In part two, we look at the efforts by our Department of Anesthesiology colleagues to educate health care professionals about AI.

As Patrick Tighe, M.D., M.S., associate dean for AI Applications & Innovation, executive director for the Quality and Patient Safety Initiative (QPSi), and professor of anesthesiology and orthopaedic surgery notes, “We’re advancing the application and science of artificial intelligence with health care through multiple prongs of the academic mission. We’re not just researching it; we’re training up in it, we’re applying it to quality improvement activities, and we’re working towards applying it to clinical practice as well.”

Developing an AI-Literate Workforce

Drs. Giordano and White demonstrating simulators

Educating health care professionals in these emerging AI technologies is critical. “AI is a very learnable field that is beginning to involve every angle of our personal and professional life,” says Chris Giordano, M.D. “Being the curious, self-sufficient, and resourceful physician entirely equips you to take on this education or professional development. Knowing how these machine learning models work, how or where they were trained, how they drift, as well as the legal nuances will be essential to practicing medicine in the foreseeable future.”

To further this aim, the QPSi Academy developed an AI education series, creating a course in AI fundamentals for faculty and trainees focusing on basic terminology and concepts, and recently released a second course in Python programming for those interested in building their own AI models. “We’re building courses specific to medicine,” says François Modave, Ph.D., associate chair of research for the department and assistant dean of the QPSi Academy and Training Programs, “and we’re building learner-focused courses created with providers in mind. They need to have something that is hands-on and easily digestible between being in the operating room and seeing patients.”

One way in which medical students are being prepared for the AI-powered future is through the College of Medicine’s Discovery Pathways Track Artificial Intelligence in Medicine. Led by Modave, Giordano, Meghan Brennan, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of anesthesiology, and Benjamin Shickel, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Division of Nephrology, Hypertension & Renal Transplantation, students spend 10 weeks learning about AI concepts and tools. As Brennan notes, “It has consisted of some very interesting speakers doing AI-related research at other universities and learning about search prompt engineering using large language models such as ChatGPT. We are now in the process of working to develop some AI-related projects.”

Group of residents who participated in the inaugural A-I course

Chris Goldstein, M.D., and Heidi Goldstein, M.D., affiliated anesthesiology faculty based at the Malcolm Randall VA Medical Center, have contributed to these educational efforts as well, developing an AI fundamentals course to teach AI concepts to anesthesiology residents. “Our main focus over the last couple of years has been the call to action for anesthesiologists to become AI literate in order to be prepared for a future when AI applications will become ubiquitous,” they say. “Being able to evaluate underlying algorithms for potential biases and questioning AI-based decisions is a crucial component to preserve human agency and guarantee patient safety.”

According to Giordano, “AI is a tremendous tool that will have an enormous upside as it pertains to delivering safer, more efficient, and more precise medicine. Much like every other tool, we need to know how it works and where it works best, and just as importantly, what are its weak points. This means we should be able to look under the hood and have an understanding about its mechanics just so that we can be an AI-literate workforce. Anesthesiologists have always been on the forefront of invention and health care advancement, and this is another opportunity for us.”

Teamwork Makes the Machines Work

When it comes to harnessing the potential of these technologies, teamwork is critical. “AI really requires a team to make it work,” says Tighe. “It requires clinicians and software engineers, analysts and statisticians, and a whole host of other folks all working together to bring these solutions forward. UF is an ideal place to put all these parts together because folks are co-localized and it’s such a collaborative environment.”

“I think the world of research here in our department is going to continue to grow,” said Gregory Janelle, M.D., interim chair of the Department of Anesthesiology, in a Q&A earlier this year. “We’ve got some really amazing, energetic, and innovative researchers here.”

Future Potential

Doctor working in an operating room

An exciting future is ahead for AI-powered anesthesiology at the University of Florida. As Janelle noted, “We’re going to be at the forefront for the artificial intelligence initiative for the college and university. I think the ability to integrate big data from some of the systems that we have, but we haven’t necessarily been able to access to their fullest potential, will be a good opportunity for us to learn more about how to perform our roles better and more safely.”

“The overall promise of AI in health care lies in bringing us closer to predictive, personalized medicine,” state the Goldsteins. “A major part of our job as anesthesiologists is predicting risk and determining whether a patient needs more workup and medical optimization to safely undergo surgery. AI optimally can help us realize the vision of value-based care, tailoring our workup to those patients who benefit from it while avoiding unnecessary tests and interventions in patients who can safely undergo surgery without additional testing. Other areas of interest where AI-based prediction can make a difference in our field is towards individualized perioperative pain management. By incorporating this, we believe that AI can help us realize cost savings while increasing the quality of care provided.”

Artificial intelligence offers the promise of benefits ranging from enhanced diagnostic accuracy and personalized treatment plans to more efficient health care delivery. As AI technologies continue to evolve, it is clear that they will play an increasing role in the next era of anesthesiology with the potential for more precise and patient-focused approaches.

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