Overheard around the Kaiser nurses’ protest over AI in healthcare

What starts in California often migrates to the rest of the country. So healthcare leaders around the U.S. might want to take notice of what’s going on in the streets of San Francisco this week.

In that city, a crowd of nurses employed by Kaiser Permanente marched Monday in protest of Kaiser’s embrace of healthcare AI. Organized by the California Nurses Association, the demonstrators waved signs and chanted slogans.

The timing of the action seems purposeful. This week Kaiser is hosting an international audience for a smallish but influential conference, the 2024 Integrated Care Experience. The site of the event—and the protest—is KP’s San Francisco Medical Center.

Is the protesters’ main motivator job security, patient safety or equal parts both? It may not matter. What matters is the prompt: the rapid rise of generative AI. Here’s a sampling of viewpoints from stakeholders on both sides of the disagreement over the technology’s rightful role in healthcare.


‘No computer, no AI can replace the human touch. It cannot hold your loved one’s hand. You cannot teach a computer how to have empathy.’

Amy Grewal, RN, Kaiser Permanente nurse (to NBC Bay Area)


‘We believe that AI may be able to help our physicians and employees, and enhance our members’ experience.’

Kaiser Permanente officials (to KQED)  


‘Our patients are not lab rats.’

Michelle Gutierrez Vo, RN, Kaiser Permanente nurse and a California Nurses Association co-president (to KQED)


‘Generative AI is a threatening technology but also a positive one. What is the best for the patient? That has to be the number one concern.’

Robert Pearl, MD, author of ChatGPT MD and former CEO of Kaiser Permanente (to KQED)


‘There is nothing inevitable about AI’s advancement into healthcare. No patient should be a guinea pig and no nurse should be replaced by a robot.’

Cathy Kennedy, RN, Kaiser Permanente nurse and a California Nurses Association co-president (to National Nurses United)


‘It’s very good to have open discussions because the technology is moving at such a fast pace and everyone is at a different level of understanding of what it can do and [what] it is.’

Ashish Atreja, MD, MPH, chief information and digital health officer at UC Davis Health (to KQED)


‘Patients are not algorithms … Trust nurses, not AI’

Kaiser Permanente nurses via picket signs (as seen on video posted to X by the San Francisco Chronicle)


Dave Pearson

Dave P. has worked in journalism, marketing and public relations for more than 30 years, frequently concentrating on hospitals, healthcare technology and Catholic communications. He has also specialized in fundraising communications, ghostwriting for CEOs of local, national and global charities, nonprofits and foundations.

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