Human visual explanations mitigate bias in AI-based assessment of surgeon skills

Dani Kiyasseh, Jasper Laca, Taseen F. Haque, Maxwell Otiato, Brian J. Miles, Christian Wagner, Daniel A. Donoho, Quoc Dien Trinh, Animashree Anandkumar, Andrew J. Hung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Artificial intelligence (AI) systems can now reliably assess surgeon skills through videos of intraoperative surgical activity. With such systems informing future high-stakes decisions such as whether to credential surgeons and grant them the privilege to operate on patients, it is critical that they treat all surgeons fairly. However, it remains an open question whether surgical AI systems exhibit bias against surgeon sub-cohorts, and, if so, whether such bias can be mitigated. Here, we examine and mitigate the bias exhibited by a family of surgical AI systems—SAIS—deployed on videos of robotic surgeries from three geographically-diverse hospitals (USA and EU). We show that SAIS exhibits an underskilling bias, erroneously downgrading surgical performance, and an overskilling bias, erroneously upgrading surgical performance, at different rates across surgeon sub-cohorts. To mitigate such bias, we leverage a strategy —TWIX—which teaches an AI system to provide a visual explanation for its skill assessment that otherwise would have been provided by human experts. We show that whereas baseline strategies inconsistently mitigate algorithmic bias, TWIX can effectively mitigate the underskilling and overskilling bias while simultaneously improving the performance of these AI systems across hospitals. We discovered that these findings carry over to the training environment where we assess medical students’ skills today. Our study is a critical prerequisite to the eventual implementation of AI-augmented global surgeon credentialing programs, ensuring that all surgeons are treated fairly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number54
Journalnpj Digital Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 30 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Information Management


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