Augmented intelligence: The synergy of man and machine to improve patient care

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Augmented intelligence: The synergy of man and machine to improve patient care

Dr. Ko

In a new position statement on augmented intelligence, the Academy reaffirms its commitment to innovation that is responsive to member and patients needs. In an interview with Dermatology World Weekly, Justin Ko, MD, chair of the Ad Hoc Task Force on Augmented Intelligence, discusses the concerns and opportunities ahead, emphasizing that AuI is simply a tool that enhances, but does not replace, dermatologist-led care.

In this five-question interview, Dr. Ko covers:

  • Why the Academy moved away from the term “artificial” (AI) to “augmented” (AuI) to focus on AI’s assistive role
  • Why being on the forefront of AuI advances means the AAD can help shape how technology will impact the specialty now and in the future
  • Key takeaways all members should pay special attention to when reviewing the AuI position statement
  • Next steps for the task force, and how new tools and resources will impact members


1. Technology has disrupted and fundamentally changed many industries and professions. The task force was asked to look at what artificial intelligence might mean for dermatology. Did you come to see artificial intelligence as a threat or an opportunity?


What was clear to the task force through the course of our work was that technology is simply a tool, and not a solution in and of itself. It is how one shapes and wields the tool that dictates whether it may be a threat or opportunity.  

As experts in skin disease and health, we are uniquely positioned, and I would even go so far as to say that we have a professional obligation on behalf of our patients, to work to ensure that artificial intelligence as applied to medicine at large, and to dermatology specifically, enhances our ability to deliver accessible, high-quality, patient-centered, dermatologist-led care. Our active engagement as the field evolves and technology develops will be crucial to realizing this future.

We see the potential opportunity for AI to play a role in helping to ameliorate and aid in challenges to our profession —access to care, professional burnout, increasing administrative and documentation burden. Imagine an AI virtual assistant in the clinic that can aid you in the mundane repetitive work and also offer clinical insights to enhance your ability to care for your patients. 

Yet, as we see the benefits of technology on our lives, the same technology can lead to unintended consequences. In medicine, we have to be especially careful about ensuring that as technology is developed and deployed we ensure that patient safety is of paramount importance. Beyond ensuring safety, we also need to be thoughtful and ensure that the deployment and integration of these technologies bridges rather than exacerbates gaps in health equity and inclusivity.  

2. You moved away from using the term artificial intelligence to augmented intelligence. Why? What are the differing connotations of those terms? 

We emphasize the term augmented intelligence (AuI) as an alternative conception that focuses on artificial intelligence’s (AI) assistive role, emphasizing that AuI is designed to enhance human intelligence rather than replace it. The promise of augmented intelligence is to enable the synergy of man and machine to do more than either alone can do.

3. As the profession of dermatology integrates AuI into clinical practice, why is it important for the AAD to be on the forefront of this technological advancement and how can the Academy help shape what the profession looks like in the AuI age? 

As clinicians, we must play a central role in advocating for, and collaborating in the development of, technology that is human-centered, ethical, accessible, high-quality, and outcome-driven. As a specialty, we need to embrace and shape the change and learn the lessons from EHR's impact on our field and profession. We can enhance our clinical capabilities in patient care and experience; productivity, efficiency, and workflow can be improved. Our engagement can help us focus on the humanity that lies at the center of the healing relationship.

4. In your opinion, what are the key takeaways featured in the AADA’s position statement on AuI and why do they matter to members?

  • The key to realizing the promise of augmented intelligence is to ensure that augmented intelligence technology works for the benefit of our patients, physicians, and the health care system at large, while at the same time minimizing the risk of potentially disruptive effects and unintended consequences.
  • The position statement promotes standards for the design, evaluation, and implementation of high-quality AuI technology.   
  • Beyond defining characteristics of high-quality AuI, the position statement also provides a framework for future directions including engagement, education, addressing privacy and legal/ethical issues, and advocacy. We fully recognize that this is a rapidly evolving field, and that active and long-term engagement is necessary to tackle head-on the breadth and complexity of issues that have and will emerge.

5. Tell us more about the Academy’s Ad Hoc Task Force on Augmented Intelligence. What are some of the tools and resources that the group is spearheading that will be helpful for members in the future?

The drafting of the position statement itself was the primary goal of the task force and is a document that we expect will undergo future updates and revisions as the technology develops. It stands as a reflection of the Academy’s commitment to take a leading position and work at the forefront of this issue on behalf of our patients and members.  

With this work complete, we recognize that the benefits of AuI can only be reaped with adoption and integration of AuI with the current health care delivery system and use by patients and providers. Through collaboration and discourse with our members, the Academy strives to influence the design, implementation, and regulation of these technologies and augment care for all. 

We aim to follow in the footsteps of the Academy’s work on teledermatology in providing a diversity of robust educational and practical resources for our members to gain greater familiarity with the concepts of AI, AuI, and the technology underlying it. These may include written articles, sessions at the Annual and Summer meetings, webinars, and internet-based modules. Beyond this, we hope to engage with our members and our patients to direct and prioritize areas of AuI development and integration and gather robust evidence in order to guide physicians on best practices and appropriate use. We will also look to engage and collaborate with administrative and legislative colleagues to promote policies that ensure AuI tools and systems are of high quality, inclusive, equitable, and accessible.  

Read the position statement on Augmented Intelligence