Will AI Replace Doctors? 3 Big Reasons Why it Will NOT
Updated on Jul, 07 2023
Written by Dr. George Laliotis
Spoiler Alert :)
"AI will be utilized by your doctor, not replaced by it."
Where are these rumors coming from? Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are nothing new. During the past decade, there have been numerous articles about the optimization of tech that has allegedly been putting people out of work.
Will AI replace your doctor? Only as much as the prosthetic leg replaced the wooden peg leg. AI is a tool in the medical field, not a professional person. Medical doctors have been around for all of the recorded history. While science has advanced and how doctors have operated has changed, no one tool can replace an actual doctor.
So the question to ask is not "Will AI replace doctors?", but "How is my doctor using AI?" In this article, we will cover the technological advancements AI has brought to the medical field and how medical professionals are applying AI to healthcare. What the future of AI in Healthcare Will Look Like: Challenges Doctors Face in Adapting New Technologies
What is AI doing in the medical field
The field of medicine is experiencing a rapid transformation as artificial intelligence (AI) technologies continue to advance. In this era of digital innovation, doctors who embrace and effectively utilize AI have the potential to surpass their counterparts who resist the adaptation of AI and machine learning.
The integration of AI in healthcare holds the promise of revolutionizing diagnostics, treatment plans, and patient outcomes.
AI and Healthcare Today
You may not even realize how much artificial intelligence and machine learning are already playing a big role in healthcare. Will AI replace doctors? No, but it is freeing up a bunch of time for medical professionals in the pharmaceutical field, diagnosis sector, and administration.
The pharmaceutical field has been going through a revolution with AI. They can now generate advanced molecules for specific diseases, run testing more efficiently, and monitor drug production at a much higher efficiency. This leads to possibly safer and more effective medicine at reduced costs that can be delivered to the public sooner.
The Covid Pandemic is a great example of how quickly AI is used to monitor drug production and speed up the process to make medicine more accessible and safe. Thanks to image processing, much of what used to be checked manually can be done at rapid speeds thanks to AI. One major area of AI that will be helpful is low-cost diagnosis.
AI can now measure your heartbeat and detect irregularities with 88% accuracy all while using less energy than a pacemaker. This has enormous implications for people in poverty or in rural areas with little access to healthcare. They can receive accurate diagnoses without the need for lots of medical staff or entire facilities present.
Radiologists will not be replaced by AI but will be given the opportunity to further excel in the field with new sensitive algorithms picking up things invisible to the human eye. It is important to remember that AI can only receive and relay information and insights. You cannot make any significant decisions without a medical professional using sound judgment.
Companies will not reap the benefits of AI unless they adapt their processes to the faster pace of AI. Entire team structures in companies have to be altered to make way for the efficient nature of AI and its productive nature.
With much less downtime and a greater need for data, many companies will have to reorganize to accommodate the new pace of discovery, testing, and monitoring. There is going to be a growing demand for data scientists and CTOs who know how to best implement AI for their work processes.
3 Reasons Why AI Can't Completely Replace Doctors
If AI could manage to replace doctors, one of the hardest careers to prepare for, we would all probably be out of work as well. Instead of asking if AI can replace doctors, we should be asking if we want AI to replace doctors.
In the current state of AI, doctors do a much better job at providing:
- Human Connection
- Contextual Understanding
One of the largest factors outside of finances in looking for a health professional is how they are as a person. Professional skills are important, but a human connection is what will determine how well the patient will listen to the medical professional, how willing they are to share information, and how likely they are to trust their medical professional.
As personalized as AI can give insights to patients, it takes a human face for many to be ready to accept what needs to be done to get healthy. Doctors possess emotional intelligence and the ability to provide psychological support to patients, which is essential for effective healthcare. AI, no matter how advanced, cannot replicate the human touch and compassion that doctors bring to patient care.
While AI algorithms comb through large data sets and see patterns invisible to the human eye, medical professionals can notice things that are not quantified into data that are not observable by AI.
Medical professionals receive so much nonverbal information from interacting with patients in the office and can build personal relationships with their patients to learn about their personal behaviors that an AI would never know even with its large data sets.
They also consider a patient's social, cultural, economic, and environmental factors when diagnosing and understanding the root causes of diseases. AI systems, which primarily rely on data analysis, may overlook these broader contextual aspects, impacting the quality of care
Medicine encounters cases that are unique, rare, or present with unusual symptoms. These situations require good judgment, critical thinking, and the ability to adapt treatment strategies on the fly. AI algorithms are limited by the data they are trained on, and they may perform logical leaps to create solutions that are not realistic.
It is always important to remember that since a medical professional is responsible for the treatment, they are going to do their best to find a solution that fits while a computer just does as it is told.
The Main 4 Challenges Doctors Can Face in the AI Era
While some will welcome AI replacing doctors because of their personal dislike of medical professionals and believe that machines will make more logical decisions, doctors are going away anytime soon but will be working side by side with machines to deliver the best healthcare.
This will not be easy though, because using AI has to be taught in an already vast required knowledge base in medical education, the tendency of machines to malfunction, the distrust people have with trusting manual work to automation, and all the legislature that is missing in using AI to treat patients.
1. Training Doctors to Use AI
Medical school requires a lot of rigorous learning and practice. Doctors have to go through countless disciplines and are tested on a large pool of knowledge. If that is not enough now do they also have to learn how to operate new AI programs?
Medical professionals are always learning throughout their careers and incorporating new machines and tools, but the way AI works is a bit more complicated than imagined.
AI is not at the level yet where it can logically explain why it sees a certain pattern or comes up with a decision so it is not easy for medical professionals to use something for decision-making that does not explain itself properly.
2. Addressing Bugs in AI
It is important to acknowledge that computers are not perfect and that bugs do happen. While safety protocols are always implemented and final decisions are made by people when dealing with healthcare, it is still important to maintain a high level of caution when using AI when it comes to a patient’s health.
While this is currently not a major issue, there are going to be very intense debates in the future about how much can be left to automation and who is responsible for flukes in AI that can cause harm.
3. Skepticism from Patients
Due to the chance of computer errors, there may be many patients who are not ready to have any new technology utilized in their medical visits. Science is an ever-evolving process of making new discoveries and updating outdated ways to improve our lives.
Sometimes these advances can happen too quickly and cause great skepticism in people who do not feel safe having decisions made about their health being influenced by any form of AI. While skepticism is still present in the public about algorithms in finance, tech, and marketing, making lots of decision-making, not many are ready to trust it for their health.
4. Legal Issues with AI in Healthcare
The legal field is already having difficulty defining medical malpractice when using AI. There seems to be an ongoing contest of man vs machine in who can better diagnose patients. While medical professionals have experience and intuition, AI has large datasets and improving algorithms.
If one day the day should come when AI does a better job at diagnosing, will medical professionals be obligated to yield to AI? As of now, the law will not permit AI to replace doctors, even if they somehow objectively outperform doctors because of a lack of liability.
There are many ethical issues like data security and algorithm biases that also need to be addressed in order for AI to be better integrated into the medical field.
Doctors Who Use AI Will Replace Doctors Who Don't
Just like any doctor who is not using the latest tested technology is not providing the best healthcare for their patients, the same can be said about doctors not utilizing AI.
While no legitimate medical professional fears that AI will replace doctors, there is room for them to utilize AI in predicting and looking over vast medical records and lab results.
A well-trained AI algorithm can read vast amounts of medical lab results and make correlations invisible to the human eye. One way artificial intelligence will replace medical professionals is in the lab.
Be it an X-ray, blood sample reading, or monitoring one’s heart rate, AI and machine learning are much more efficient at scanning large pools of data and noticing behaviors and patterns that are mostly invisible to the human eye.
This means that more research with AI could lead to earlier signs of looking for disease. Thanks to AI, there has already been success in finding early links to breast cancer thanks to AI.
How Will Patients Use Advice From AI?
One area where AI will replace doctors in the near future is in the early stages of getting consultations. While it would be great if doctors had the time to individually be able to get in contact with their patients and give in-depth diagnoses, it is just not a productive use of time.
New AI-powered platforms like Docus.ai are using AI to help patients understand what they might be experiencing given their symptoms, which can then be relayed to a professional doctor who can quickly assess the situation. This saves time and money for both patients who were immediately seen by the chatbot and requires less consultation time from the doctor, who benefits from already being onboarded by the chatbot.
While AI-powered chatbots will not replace doctors, patients can access these chatbots through mobile apps or websites, day or night, making it a super accessible way to get personalized answers to medical questions.
These chatbots are designed to gather information about the patient's symptoms, medical history, and preferences to provide tailored recommendations and give all necessary information to quickly assess the situation.
Another key benefit of AI-powered chatbots is their ability to provide immediate responses, eliminating the need for patients to wait for a doctor's appointment or spend time researching their concerns online.
Some patients do not have high-tech literacy and cannot properly navigate the internet on their own to find reliable information so having a single place to type in questions and immediately get answers is going to bring lots of access to medical information to the masses.
With this newfound access to accurate and reliable information, they will be empowered to make informed decisions about their health.
Additionally, AI-powered chatbots have the potential to improve patient education and engagement. They deliver personalized health recommendations, preventive care reminders, and lifestyle suggestions, promoting healthy habits and self-management.
Patients can receive guidance on medication adherence, diet plans, and exercise routines, leading to better overall health outcomes.
AI will not replace your doctor but will be a valuable tool for the entire healthcare industry. Times are changing fast and the entire industry needs to quickly plan on how to adapt this revolutionary technology through restructuring, legislation, and making sure healthcare is more accessible.
AI is already making changes right now in diagnosing, creating medicine, and administrative work. While doctors need to be trained in using AI, the future already looks promising for integrating it further as a tool for doctors to use. This is going to require more tech talent in the healthcare field and legislature to make the proper parties accountable for new integrations.
Patients still prefer talking to a professional doctor they are fond of and doctors are still the ones making the final decisions in diagnosis, prescribing treatment, and suggesting lifestyle changes for preventative care. Technology is always advancing, but will AI replace doctors?
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