Warnings of a Dark Side to A.I. in Health Care

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved a device that can capture an image of your retina and automatically detect signs of diabetic blindness.

This new breed of artificial intelligence technology is rapidly spreading across the medical field, as scientists develop systems that can identify signs of illness and disease in a wide variety of images, from X-rays of the lungs to C.A.T. scans of the brain. These systems promise to help doctors evaluate patients more efficiently, and less expensively, than in the past.

Similar forms of artificial intelligence are likely to move beyond hospitals into the computer systems used by health care regulators, billing companies and insurance providers. Just as A.I. will help doctors check your eyes, lungs and other organs, it will help insurance providers determine reimbursement payments and policy fees.

Ideally, such systems would improve the efficiency of the health care system. But they may carry unintended consequences, a group of researchers at Harvard and M.I.T. warns.