As the intersection between artificial intelligence (AI) and behavioral health continues to grow, it is paramount for professionals in our field to stay informed about the evolving landscape of AI government policies. On October 30, the White House released President Biden’s Executive Order (EO) on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence. This article intends to clarify the key components of the AI Executive Order and its potential implications for behavioral health. It also identifies and applies the White House’s five newly proposed AI Bill of Rights to behavioral health.
The President’s AI Executive Order
The AI Executive Order encompasses a comprehensive strategy to bolster AI safety and security, enhance privacy, advance equity and civil rights, and foster innovation and competitiveness in the AI sector.
Herein, we delineate the critical actions directed by the EO:
Enhanced Standards for AI Safety and Security
The EO mandates developers of potent AI systems to disclose safety test outcomes and relevant information to the US government. This is particularly salient for AI applications within behavioral health that may interact with sensitive Protected Health Information and other data, requiring rigorous testing and government oversight before public deployment.
Protection of Privacy
The President has advocated for bipartisan data privacy legislation and has directed federal support for the development of privacy-preserving techniques. As behavioral health practitioners, learning about and adopting such practices is crucial in safeguarding client data against the increasing capabilities of AI in data extraction and exploitation.
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Consumer, Patient, and Student Advocacy
The EO calls for responsible AI use in healthcare, potentially impacting how AI tools are used in diagnostic and therapeutic contexts within behavioral health practices.
The administration is looking into how AI impacts labor markets and is working to develop strategies to support workers facing job disruptions due to AI advancements. This includes implications for the behavioral health workforce and how it adapts to integrating AI technologies.
Advancing Equity and Civil Rights
Measures are set to prevent AI algorithms from exacerbating discrimination in sectors such as housing, justice, and healthcare. This is directly relevant to behavioral health services, ensuring that AI aids rather than hinders the provision of equitable and unbiased care.
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Innovation and Competition Promotion
Supporting AI research and granting access to AI resources will likely spur innovation across all fields, including behavioral health technologies.
Global Leadership and Cooperation
The EO emphasizes international collaboration on AI governance, which aligns with the global nature of the behavioral health field and its reliance on international research and practice standards.
AI Executive Order Implications for Government Use
Agencies are directed to use AI responsibly, with clear standards to protect rights and safety—a directive underscores the importance of ethical AI deployment in public health initiatives, including those related to mental health, addictions, and well-being.
As behavioral health professionals, we must be aware of the potential ramifications of these directives, particularly about privacy, equity, and the ethical application of AI within our services. The full text of the AI Executive Order provides a comprehensive understanding and can be found at WhiteHouse.gov.
White House Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights
A second potentially valuable resource released by the White House is the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights. It outlines five principles designed to guide the use and deployment of automated systems and protect the public in the era of artificial intelligence.
Behavioral Application of the AI Bill of Rights
Here’s how the five AI Bill of Rights principles might translate in the telebehavioral health context:
Safe and Effective Systems. Behavioral health technologies, including AI-based diagnostic tools or treatment recommendation systems, should be rigorously tested for safety and efficacy. In practice, this would mean validating such tools against diverse data sets to ensure they work effectively across different populations. Systems should also be monitored for performance over time, with mechanisms in place to report and address any adverse events or outcomes. While technology companies must conduct these tasks, practicing professionals must know to ask the right questions about such practices to be in a position to make wise technology choices.
Algorithmic Discrimination Protections. AI used in telebehavioral health must be designed to avoid biases based on race, gender, sexual orientation, age, or socioeconomic status. This could involve auditing algorithms for discriminatory biases and ensuring diversity in the teams that design and implement these systems. The goal is to prevent automated tools from perpetuating existing health disparities. Again, behavioral professionals must be aware of the possibility of implicit bias in using AI and ask the appropriate questions to detect whether or not health information technology vendors have taken proper measures to correct errors that can lead to inequities in service delivery.
Data Privacy. The privacy of patient data in behavioral health is paramount. Patients should be informed about what data is being collected through telehealth platforms, how it will be used, and the safeguards to protect their information. Data collected through telehealth apps, for instance, should be encrypted and should comply with health privacy laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Notice and Explanation. Patients should receive clear information when AI is part of their care—for example, if an AI system is used to assess risk or recommend treatments. Providers should explain how decisions are made by the AI and what the patient’s options are if they prefer not to rely on the automated recommendation.
Human Alternatives, Consideration, and Fallback. In telebehavioral health, while AI can aid in diagnosis and treatment planning, there must always be a way for patients to speak with a human clinician if they prefer. This ensures that care is personalized, considers the nuanced needs of each individual, and maintains the therapeutic relationship, which is central to behavioral health treatment.
In implementing these principles, behavioral entities should ensure they are embedded in their software design, service offerings, staff training, and patient engagement strategies. Applying the five principles from the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights to behavioral health is a way to ensure that the deployment of artificial intelligence and other automated systems enhances care without compromising client or patient rights or safety.
Following the White House’s pivotal AI Executive Order, Telehealth.org remains committed to providing our community with training and resources aligned with the highest standards for AI integration in behavioral health. We will continue to monitor these events and keep you informed.
You may wish to get started by registering for Telehealth.org’s recent CME and CE training program. Led by Joseph McMenamin, MD, JD, this AI and ChatGPT program is now immediately accessible and focuses on the legal and ethical issues implicated by behavioral practitioners seeking better to understand the ramifications of the White House’s current policies of relevance to the day-to-day psychotherapy practice when using AI’s advanced technologies.
Marlene M. Maheu, PhD
Telehealth.org Founder & CEO
Please note that while we strive to relay the most current information, it is essential to consult the source and professional advisories for specific applications within your practice to ensure compliance with all regulatory and ethical standards. This AI Executive Order article is brought to you at no charge as a community service by Telehealth.org.
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