Sen. Mark Warren pens letter to Google CEO

Aug. 9, 2023

According to an Aug. 8 press release, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence penned a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai urging him to provide further clarity into his company’s deployment of Med-PaLM 2, an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot that is currently being tested in healthcare settings. Sen. Warner’s letter expressed his concerns about reports of inaccuracies in the technology and asked Google to increase transparency, protect patient privacy and uphold ethical guardrails.

The press release states that “In April, Google began testing Med-PaLM2 with customers, including the Mayo Clinic. Med-PaLM 2 can answer medical questions, summarize documents, and organize health data. While the technology has shown some promising results, there are also concerning reports of repeated inaccuracies and of Google’s own senior researchers expressing reservations about the readiness of the technology. Additionally, much remains unknown about where Med-PaLM 2 is being tested, what data sources it learns from, to what extent patients are aware of and can object to the use of AI in their treatment, and what steps Google has taken to protect against bias.”

Further, “The letter raises concerns over AI companies prioritizing the race to establish market share over patient well-being. Sen. Warner also emphasizes his previous efforts to raise the alarm about Google skirting health privacy as it trained diagnostic models on sensitive health data without patients’ knowledge or consent.”

“While artificial intelligence (AI) undoubtedly holds tremendous potential to improve patient care and health outcomes, I worry that premature deployment of unproven technology could lead to the erosion of trust in our medical professionals and institutions, the exacerbation of existing racial disparities in health outcomes, and an increased risk of diagnostic and care-delivery errors,” Sen. Warner wrote.

The letter asks a number of questions for google to answer, including requesting further transparency into how Med-PaLM 2 is being implemented, what data sources Med-PaLM 2 ‘learns’ from, and how much information patients have over how AI is involved in their care.

The press release can be found here.