Medical Practice Tech

Will AI Replace Doctors?

Author: Dr. Rohini

How is Artificial Intelligence Changing Healthcare? Will Artificial Intelligence Replace Doctors?

There’s really widespread agreement that AI will not be able to replace doctors. Arguing that it can does not only go against the complexity of what doctors perform, but it also ignores the importance of a human touch. When discussing your cancer diagnosis, you’ll want someone to hold your hand. In such life-changing situations, empathy is essential. How well you feel, how likely you are to stick to a treatment plan, and how you and your family remember the trauma for decades to come will all be influenced by the kind of personal connection you have with your doctor. 

However, assuming that a human doctor will always be available ignores the significant changes and hazards that their jobs face with the AI growing rapidly.

Doctors primarily perform three tasks:
Diagnosis (what’s wrong with me? ),
Management (what’s the plan? )
Prognosis (how long until things improve?).

AI systems that use machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, and time series forecasting are gradually taking over all three fundamental functions – So what does this mean?
AI will significantly change the job situation for doctors – Meaning, a AI will not replace all doctors but WILL replace most doctors. 

There will not be a single AI answer for health care, just as there will not be a single solution for all retail (groceries, apparel, and music all had quite distinct pathways to digitalization) or all marketing (as the MarTech 5000 technology landscape shows). Rather, automated systems are appearing and ready for prime time based on one process inside one profession at a time: identifying abnormal chest x-rays, diagnosing common pediatric diseases, analyzing lymph node slides in pathology, detecting early eye disease, and assessing mental health.

This process has been going on for a few years, and while there is a lot of excellent debate about specific research, a recent literature analysis reveals a few things: 

• Every day, AI technology improves in accuracy. Experts from the human world do not. 

• AI will be able to clearly explain its findings. 

• Artificial intelligence (AI) may be the only method to give best-in-class health care to the world’s more than 6 billion people who earn less than $30 a day. 

Many radiologists will argue that AI systems will never be able to replace them and their comfortable salary, the vast majority of the world’s population does not and will never have access to a radiologist. In the west, there are 25 MRI machines per 1 million inhabitants, compared to 1 MRI machine every 25 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa. With a population that is outpacing the number of doctors available to train, automated solutions are a practical necessity and coming up in a big way, threatening jobs. This is the situation across all specialities. 

As a result, AI may drive the next century of medical innovation, giving your local primary care doctor, as well as the world’s best specialists, AND PATIENTS the superpowers to detect and cure any condition. However, first-world specialists are not immune to change. 

Given that the health-care industry is often 20 years behind the curve in terms of technological adoption, here’s what happens next – Assume you visit a hospital one day in need of an oncologist, cardiologist, endocrinologist, or psychiatrist (maybe you already have your diagnosis, treatment plan and prognosis based on the AI technology you used) – and you only need to meet one individual who is dressed in a white coat, smiles reassuringly, is polite, offers comfort and has just the proper amount of grey hair to inspire trust of course (that is most important- more grey hair, the better). A number of gadgets and displays are used to tailor your treatment plan in a holistic, evidence-based manner that incorporates cutting-edge medicine and aligns with your lifestyle goals. How great would that be for patients! 

Things AI can’t replace:

  • Empathy, warmth and kindness 
  • Complex cases 
  • Managing medical emergencies, childbirth and therapy (Counselling, cognitive behavioural therapies, etc.)
  • Surgeries (however, robotics will change the dynamics for surgeons as well) 
  • Administrative work 
  • Innovation
  • AI can not replace nurses – They provide what AI can’t – empathy, kindness, administration of treatment and taking care of patients (AI is not going to change bed pans or insert catheters) 

If a doctor can’t offer what technology can’t they would be replaced because with AI becoming more advanced and mainstream, you would just not need that many doctors – because let’s face it, complex cases are uncommon. People are also becoming more aware and taking control of their health, focusing on preventive health – There are plenty of technologies available to track health as well. 

One day, maybe medical education would consist of a training course for using AI technology- because complex technologies require competent people.

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