EtaBernerEta Berner, EdDEta S. Berner, EdD, director of the UAB Center for Health Informatics for Patient Safety/Quality (CHIPS/Q), and Bunyamin Ozaydin, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UAB Graduate Programs in Health Informatics in the Department of Health Services Administration, are published in the latest edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Their Letter to the Editor, titled “Benefits and risks of machine learning decision support systems,” was selected in response to the article “Unintended Consequences of Machine Learning in Medicine” that was published in the August 8, 2017 edition of JAMA.

In the original article, the authors discuss the potential for overreliance on technology which could lead to the “deskilling” – reducing the analytic skills – of physicians. In other words, the move to machine learning would hinder physicians’ ability to recognize inaccuracies of algorithms or errors committed by the systems themselves.

In their 400-word letter, Berner and Ozaydin compare this line of concern to the concerns that arose with the introduction of the blood pressure cuff in the early 1900’s. It took more than 50 years before blood pressure cuffs were routinely used by nurses as they are today.

“History has shown that medical tools can be properly used with strong strategy, preparation and learning,” said Ozaydin. “In the case of machine learning, using the systems for the specific purpose for which they were designed, using them for decision support, not decision making, and constantly improving them are some of the best practices to help users avoid unexpected consequences.”

BunyaminOzaydinBunyamin Ozaydin, Ph.D.Berner, a professor in the Graduate Programs in Health Informatics in the UAB School of Health ProfessionsDepartment of Health Services Administration, is currently a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association and the Journal of Healthcare Information Management. She has conducted research on the healthcare industry for over 20 years.

“We are not saying the concerns that are raised by Cabitza and colleagues should be ignored,” said Berner, who is a Fellow of both the American College of Medical Informatics and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). “We are saying their concerns should not slow or stop the development of innovative systems because these technological changes can potentially improve clinical care significantly.”

In addition to JAMA, Berner has published articles in the New England Journal of MedicineAcademic Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. She is editor of the books Clinical Decision Support Systems: Theory and Practice and Informatics Education in Healthcare: Lessons Learned.   

Prior to joining the HSA department, Ozaydin worked for more than a decade for UAB Medicine at various roles including Database Analyst and Research Associate. He serves as part of the Next Generation Leadership Group for the Society for Design and Process Science (SDPS) and has served on the Quality Improvement Committee and the Section on Quality and Patient Safety at the UAB Department of Anesthesiology.