Foley & Lardner LLP recently co-hosted a webinar with the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) Northern California Chapter’s new AI and Technology Cohort on how directors can help corporations harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to improve health care outcomes.
Foley’s Silicon Valley–based corporate partner Louis Lehot moderated the digital discussion in conversation with panelists:
- Timothy Chou—Lecturer at Stanford University, director at Teradata, and a NACD Top 50 Director
- Walter de Brouwer—founder of doc.ai, which was sold to Sharecare Inc. (NYSE: SHCR), and chief scientific officer of Sharecare
- Dipanwita Das—founder of Sorcero and director at ecoAmerica and Atlas Corp.
- Rajeev Ronanki—CEO of Lyric, director at Sharecare, and author of You and AI: A Citizen’s Guide to AI, Blockchain, and Puzzling Together the Future of Healthcare
NACD organizers created the AI and Technology Cohort for discussions about the disruptive potential of AI technology, especially large language models, generative AI, and ChatGPT. But how are these technologies relevant to health care?
First, health care is the most significant non-compensation cost for corporations today. While the United States has the most advanced large-scale health care system across the globe—with world-class hospitals, top research institutions, and pharmaceutical companies developing the most cutting-edge therapies anywhere—it is largely based on private insurance, funded by federal and state employment taxes and employer-based health plans.
Second, providing health care is a fundamental function of a corporation that is inextricably linked to corporate social responsibility (CSR); diversity, equity, and inclusion; and environmental, societal, and governance (ESG) priorities—societal goals that directors should be advancing on behalf of the corporations for whom they serve.
As most health care coverage is derived or funded from the employer, directors are the de facto stewards of the U.S. health care system. AI has the ability to lower costs and improve patient outcomes, thereby uplifting CSR, reducing inequity, and promoting ESG goals. Panelists debated whether directors had a duty to both improve health care outcomes for stakeholders as well as to use AI to control costs borne by shareholders. They also discussed the key factors in how health care is delivered and the important role directors play in insisting that AI be integrated into the health care system.
Meanwhile, technologists on the panel described the fundamentally disruptive potential of both automation and AI in both the invention of new therapies as well as the delivery of care and the processing of payments between the various players in the U.S. health care system. AI can assist in personalizing health care and reducing administrative burdens.
Other topics that came up in the discussion include:
- The state of automating the byzantine U.S. health care system.
- How AI can improve health care outcomes for disease prediction, prevention, therapy, and treatment.
- The main technology drivers involved in developing AI and implementing it.
Panelists also discussed how since the incentives of the primary players in the U.S. health care system are often misaligned, directors can play an important role in supervising the negotiation of key compromises. Directors also help supervise the transition of health care to new technologies and more automation.
Panelists debated whether responsibility for AI development should remain with the full board of directors or whether it should be delegated to a committee. Some panelists bemoaned the lack of technology expertise among board members and how the board selection process should factor in expertise in technology, automation, and AI. Chou suggested that, at the next board meeting, directors should question whether the corporation’s health insurance provider is investing in AI. Ronanki suggested directors and corporate leaders 1) identify an aspect of corporate health care that is performing poorly, 2) devote resources to it, 3) enable a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) team, 4) succeed—or fail—quickly, 5) apply the lessons learned, and then 6) repeat the process. This gives corporations the opportunity to provide better health care to their employees at lower costs.
The discussion concluded with ethical considerations about privacy, personal information, and cybersecurity and the big misses of AI in health care so far. Panelists debated whether companies should have a chief AI officer, chief privacy officer, or chief ethics officer or should have all of these responsibilities remain with the CEO. The expected evolution in regulation in these areas will demand strong legal counsel. Finally, with so much data being collected and stored in so many places, IT governance and the security of its systems has never been more important.
Please contact Louis Lehot for more information regarding the webinar and strategies for directors in this area.