How to explain AI to your patients

New technologies are always at the forefront of healthcare. AI in mammography is one of the latest. How do you explain this new technology to your patients? They know what a screening mammogram is and if cancer appears it can be “caught” early. However, explaining how artificial intelligence can help this is not so easy. Here are a few suggestions to help:

  1. Understand how well your patients understand technology. Screening mammography guidelines recommend a baseline mammogram starting at age 40. The age variance is approximately from 40 to 80 years of age. Within this age range there is a large gap in computer knowledge. Start by finding out how savvy your patients are with computers. The Baby Boomers, ages 57-75 years old, is the largest in the US. Adults 66 and over did not grow up with computer technology and usually need more detailed information about how to operate it. Younger Boomers ages 57 to 67 typically have a good understanding of computer technology. The 40- to 56-year-olds (Generation X) are typically well versed with computer technology. Because there is a big gap in technology savviness it requires more thought in how to educate your patients. 
  2. Develop educational materials that target how different age groups learn. Baby Boomers typically use computers to access information. They know how to use email and basic communication through technology. They tend to pick up brochures, read magazines, still read the newspaper and watch TV for news. Millennials are very good with most aspects of technology as they truly grew up with it, including social media, podcasts, kindles and digital news. Utilizing various ways to communicate to these generations would be wise.
  3. Explain that artificial intelligence assists the radiologist. As your patients understand computers and how they work, they know software is what runs a computer.  Explain that AI is very advanced software and that it can help find cancer by scanning their mammogram. Here’s Wikipedia’s definition: Artificial intelligence in healthcare is an overarching term used to describe the use of machine-learning algorithms and software, or artificial intelligence (AI), to mimic human cognition in the analysis, presentation, and comprehension of complex medical and health care data.” 
  4. Use your opportunities to explain new technology. Utilize your technologists to start the education process. A patient develops a trust factor and relationship with them and feels more comfortable to discuss things with the technologists. Provide brochures and handouts that are both informative and convenient.

Although radiologists don’t typically interact with a patient when screening exams are performed, they do if a diagnostic exam needs additional imaging such as a biopsy, etc. If AI has assisted the radiologist in this diagnosis this could initiate a conversation. This is a prime opportunity to explain why your facility is so wonderful and has the latest and greatest technology of AI. It can instill a very positive view of artificial intelligence to a patient. Many think of AI as robots and science fiction, as their references or interactions with AI are typically from movies and books. Also, they might be more worried about the use of their data by the AI than the AI itself. Keep this in mind as you explain AI to them. A reminder is to always pay attention to your patients’ body language. Do they have a confused look on their face? Patients tend to not ask questions to be considerate of your time—they know that you are busy and they also don’t want to feel uneducated. Read their body language. Have you explained this well to them or are they just agreeing with you? 

As technology changes keep in mind how important it is to properly educate your patients.  Need help in educating your patients about MammoScreen®? We can help!