Artificial Intelligence Raises Ethical Issues in Veterinary Medicine

In this week’s VetCrunch news roundup, we discuss the use of artificial intelligence, how pay transparency is on the rise, and ask you ‘have you got what it takes to be the BVA’s 2024 president’?

As the use of artificial intelligence (AI) increases in the veterinary field, it’s important to reflect on ethical concerns the technology also poses. Whilst the new technology is incredibly important in the development of medicine, it is important to note the difference in human and veterinary medicine, and the impact AI could make to both. 

Eli Cohen, the associate clinical professor of radiology at NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, spoke out on the matter:

 “A major difference between veterinary and human medicine is that veterinarians have the ability to euthanise patients—which could be for a variety of medical and financial reasons—so the stakes of diagnoses provided by AI algorithms are very high,”

“Human AI products have to be validated prior to coming to market, but currently there is no regulatory oversight for veterinary AI products.”

Cohen also pointed out, in a review for Veterinary Radiology and Ultrasound, that the AI currently marketed to veterinarians is mainly for radiology and imaging (due to the current demand for veterinary radiologists in the vet-med). However, this could also be a downfall, as AL image analysis cannot be substituted for trained radiologists interpreting images with the medical history of the animal. 

Whilst AI offers an accurate diagnosis of some conditions, it also has its limitations, and in some cases may not be able to differentiate between conditions that look alike, but have a differing treatment plan. 

“AI and how it works is often a black box, meaning even the developer doesn’t know how it’s reaching decisions or diagnoses,”

“Couple that with lack of transparency by companies in AI development, including how the AI was trained and validated, and you’re asking veterinarians to use a diagnostic tool with no way to appraise whether or not it is accurate.

“Since veterinarians often get a single visit to diagnose and treat a patient and don’t always get follow-up, AI could be providing faulty or incomplete diagnoses and a veterinarian would have limited ability to identify that, unless the case is reviewed or a severe outcome occurs.” said Cohen. 


Why Should You Care?

With the rise in technology, it is important to recognize that while there may be a sense of excitement, the accuracy and repeatability of such tech may lag behind what we would consider acceptable.
That said, there is a compelling argument to be made for such technology if validated, as:

  1. a) It has the capability to drive massive increases in efficiency and speed in diagnosis (AI doesn’t get tired or need breaks, and it doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop. Ever! Until you(r job) is dead!
  2. b) Human subjectivity and fallibility remain universal and are also huge failure points in the diagnostic process.

As such it’s likely (and we have the Terminator to thank for this), the best systems where accuracy and trust is acceptably high, will be those where AI does the heavy lifting and is overseen by human operators.

Vets on the frontline will also have to ensure that any results pass the subjective clinical “sniff test”. We have long been taught to never treat a lab result, but a patient holistically. So long as vets remain the ultimate authority in the care delivery chain, we can look forward to an AI-enhanced future. (And hopefully not be chased around the prep room by an enraged, murderous Sedivue.)

Click here to read the full article.

Have you got what it takes to become the 2024 British Veterinary Association’s (BVAs) president in 2024? 

Applications are currently open (until Monday 16th January), for the BVA’s Junior Vice President position, who after serving for a year, will go on to become President in 2024, before concluding their officer tenure as Senior Vice President in 2025. 

The BVA is calling for all dedicated and experienced veterinary surgeon BVA members, with energy, passion, and experience in veterinary medicine. The role is open to all BVA members, no matter on the stage in their career. Due to the BVAs commitment to Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion, they are also particularly interested in receiving applications from vets in underrepresented sectors.

Aforementioned, the total commitment as a BVA officer is three years, followed by another three years serving as the BVA past president on the BVA council. 

Current BVA President, Malcolm Morley said: “It’s a huge honour to champion what’s really important to BVA members and the UK veterinary profession to key stakeholders both in the UK and on the international stage.

“Being a BVA Officer is hard work, but it’s incredibly rewarding and you’re well supported by the BVA team on everything from policy to media work. I would urge anyone who has a passion for animal health and welfare, and our wonderful veterinary profession, to consider putting themselves forward to join our Officer team.”


Why Should You Care?

The British Veterinary Association is hugely influential in the UK veterinary industry and is effectively our trade body. The future president of the organization will have a say in shaping the future of veterinary medicine. If you think you are up to the challenge, why not enroll and help make veterinary medicine better for all?

To find out more, click here.

Pay transparency laws have started to gain traction in some areas in the US. 

As of January 1st, 2023, California and Rhode Island are joining the list of states and cities that require salary information on a listed job ad. The two states will be joining Colorado, Washington State, Nevada, Connecticut, and Maryland on their similar laws surrounding pay transparency.

This is positive news for job applicants who will know the salary expectation at the beginning of the interview process rather than at the very end (as some companies tend to do). 

So how does this impact the veterinary profession?

The president of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, Ashli Selke, said: “In general, I do see how members are excited with salary transparency. It saves both the veterinary technician and the potential employer so much time in not having to go all the way through the interview process just to find out that the pay is not what was envisioned by the potential employee.”

Pay transparency can also positively impact employers. Pay transparency on job ads can create more applications for the position. Data from a 2022 US Job Seeker survey, found that 75% of job seekers are more likely to apply if a salary is listed.

“My personal prediction is that this would increase the number of candidates for a position, given that the wage was an acceptable living wage or higher. History and data has shown that credentialed veterinary technicians have been working underpaid for far too long,” said Selke.


Why Should You Care?

Pay transparency is a huge step forward for both job seekers and employees. For job seekers, it offers more clarity in expectations prior to applying. Pay transparency is also helping close the pay gap – if companies are disclosing this information, it’s much easier to spot pay disparities. It can also help build trust between employees and employers, and increase job performance. 

To read the full article, click here.

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