The Role of AI in Healthcare

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been making waves across various sectors, and the healthcare and medical industries are no exception. Generative AI platforms, including advanced language models such as ChatGPT, are increasingly being used by medical professionals in the areas of patient care, administrative tasks, and medical research.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

It’s likely that artificial intelligence represents a huge paradigm shift in how we humans work–and it’s also likely to be around in some form for decades to come. That makes it important to understand what artificial intelligence really is–because the name is misleading.

There is no actual intelligence at work behind generative AI. It’s not thinking–it’s computing. Generative AI algorithms rely on machine learning algorithms. And while these algorithms are remarkably complex and great at incorporating new data, they do not think and they are not aware.

This may sound like we’re splitting hairs, but it’s important: if you’re asking AI algorithms to do your thinking for you, it could be a recipe for trouble. However, understood correctly, AI has the potential to be an incredibly powerful tool–improving outcomes, making patients happier, and making your job easier. 

As with any new frontier, there’s much left to explore.

How is AI Currently Used in Healthcare Settings?

AI’s current applications in healthcare are diverse and impactful. Machine learning algorithms are already used in diagnostic imaging to detect anomalies such as tumors or fractures, often with comparable or superior accuracy to human radiologists. AI can analyze vast amounts of data from medical records to predict patient outcomes, identify high-risk patients, and suggest personalized treatment plans.

Some healthcare settings are even starting to experiment with using chatbots, virtual assistants, or ChatGPT–however, there are privacy and HIPAA concerns in this regard. ChatGPT, for example, is not HIPAA compliant, so this is an important consideration in how you might choose to use it.

Some practices have found success in the patient communication arena, using these AI algorithms to provide generalized health information, remind patients to take their medication, and even offer mental health support. The theory is that AI-driven tools can significantly enhance patient engagement and adherence to treatment plans.

Potential Future Uses of AI

The possibilities associated with AI seem limitless–especially according to proponents of the technology. In theory, AI could be used to develop more personalized medicine, tailoring treatments to an individual’s genetic makeup. It could also be used to predict disease outbreaks or monitor the spread of diseases in real time, aiding in public health responses. There’s even been some success using machine learning to create a laser-based pesticide (with no chemicals).

AI might also play a significant role in surgical robotics. While robotic assistance in surgery is not new, AI could take it a step further by performing certain surgical tasks autonomously.

Benefits of AI Integration

To AI advocates, the benefits of integrating AI into healthcare are numerous. Properly deployed, AI could:

  • Handle large volumes of data, enabling healthcare providers to make more informed decisions. 
  • Automate routine tasks, freeing up healthcare professionals to focus on more complex patient care tasks. 
  • Improve patient outcomes by enabling early detection of diseases and personalized treatment.

However, it’s important to note that none of these benefits have been borne out by peer reviewed research–largely because the technology is so new. This makes it challenging for practices to take an evidence-based approach to integrating AI into your day-to-day operations.

Challenges and Considerations

As with any new technology, generative AI is not without challenges and drawbacks. The most pressing of these include the following:

  • Data privacy: Generative AI works by amassing a huge amount of data. As a result, many AI platforms incorporate the data of their users. This means every query and prompt is saved (not necessarily by you–but by the AI software itself). This raises significant data privacy concerns, especially in a medical setting. As a result, using AI for patient communication can carry significant risks.
  • Information accuracy: Generative AI is designed to provide results that users are looking for. That’s not the same thing as accurate results. In fact, many AI platforms have a history of delivering results that are simply untrue. According to one study at Stanford Medicine, 6% of the papers referenced by ChatGPT were simply made up! This makes generative AI difficult to rely on–especially when it comes to patient safety. As mentioned before, AI does not think–so it can’t truly answer your questions. It can only generate a response.
  • Built-in biases: There is a significant lack of transparency when it comes to how AI systems generate their results. All of these algorithms are still written by humans–and so all of their unconscious biases are often incorporated into the AI platform. This can exacerbate already existing inequities and prejudices. And that can be a significant problem in the field of medicine.
  • Contextualization: Most patients want to understand the reasoning behind a diagnosis or treatment recommendation. If a provider were to rely on AI algorithms for those diagnoses or recommendations, the reasoning may not always be clear–and patient care could suffer as a result.

These drawbacks in and of themselves may not represent a reason to eschew AI-based technologies. But they are good reasons to thoroughly plan how you might explore and deploy this technology. 

When (and How) Should You Incorporate AI?

Generative AI and machine learning algorithms are a significant new technology–and it seems like they’re being incorporated everywhere. For those in a field that traditionally embraces new technology, such as healthcare, there can be an overwhelming rush to incorporate this new service.

But there’s still a lot we don’t know about how AI will function–especially as the technology continues to grow and expand. This means that practices should be thoughtful and deliberate about how they approach artificial intelligence. Areas of patient outreach and communication could benefit significantly, and using AI for low level admin tasks can provide you with more time to spend with patients.

There’s no telling what AI could help you accomplish in the future!

What Are Your Thoughts?

Do you have thoughts about artificial intelligence? Does it fill you with excitement, or weigh you down with dread? Let us know!

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POSTED ON: July 11, 2023
By PatientX Agency | Marketing, Patient Experience, Research
Tags: , , ,

About the Author:

PatientX is a healthcare marketing company that specializes in helping care providers create better patient experiences. While placing an emphasis on the patient experience, PatientX works with members of the healthcare industry to achieve higher standards of patient care and satisfaction, and helping them achieve their goals of growth and success.