Yes, you read that correctly. Generally, conversations surrounding AI in healthcare are pessimistic – inciting fear that artificially intelligent machines will soon take over professions in the industry, essentially eradicating the already damaged doctor-patient relationship. However, Eric Topol believes otherwise. In his recent book, Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again, Topol takes a new perspective on the emergence of AI in healthcare and how the advancement of tech may actually be for our benefit.
"If we exploit machines' unique strengths to foster an improved bond between humans," Topol stated, "we'll have found a vital remedy for what profoundly ails our medicine today."
Our doctors today are stressed, burnt out, depressed or all of the above. New regulations and constantly changing consumer expectations are part of the blame – not to mention the mass amount of information they’re responsible for consuming. Top it off with confusing EHR systems, and you start to get the picture of how physicians are struggling to balance the time in their day.
For half of the world’s population, the average visit to a primary care physician lasts less than five minutes. In the U.S., the average office visit lasts 20 minutes – not including the 1+ hours you’ll most likely spend in the waiting room hoping to be seen. The pressures doctors face when having to juggle their responsibilities takes a toll on their relationships with patients. As a result of their declining mental health, a recent study found that of the physicians surveyed who expressed feelings of burn out and/or depression:
- 34% are easily exasperated with patients
- 32% are less engaged with patients
- 29% are less friendly with patients
- 14% express their frustrations in front of patients
The numbers are alarming. So, how does Topol’s theory come into play? It’s simple. AI is designed to soon take over the overwhelmingly time-consuming administrative tasks that doctors currently spend 52% of their day managing. With that stress off their plate, AI will allow doctors to get back to what matters most: their patients.
We’re already seeing digital assistants on the rise in our homes, but now they’re making their way into our hospitals and doctors’ offices. Digital assistants in healthcare will be able to provide around-the-clock, reliable medical advice and condition monitoring, and remind doctors of patients’ health details ranging from previous illnesses to past drug reactions – giving doctors an opportunity to focus more on the patient than on taking notes or entering information into a computer.
Reducing the chance for medical errors is another key benefit of AI. After heart disease and cancer, medical errors are the third leading cause of death. In the U.S. alone, approximately 7,000 people die each year from being given the wrong drug or the wrong dosage of the right drug. With AI, tech will be responsible for tracking the entire process. From the initial prescription to the recommended dosage, AI will use deep learning and special algorithms to ensure that patients are receiving the right treatment – taking the possibility of human error out of the process.
Why This Matters –
Our doctors need help, our help. While a number of brands are already in the process of providing outlets for doctors to get the care they need for their mental health or make systems more user friendly, nothing will compare to what AI has the potential to do. But, with supporting data in its early stages, companies are still working out the kinks in integrating the tech into our health care.
There are several current concerns regarding AI, including robots telling a patient their diagnosis. Additionally, cybersecurity poses an eminent threat to the efficiency of AI. According to a story posted in The New York Times, there are two key concerns: hackers could cause patients to be misdiagnosed and doctors, hospitals and other organizations could manipulate AI in favor of maximizing the money that comes their way. So, while AI could have its benefits, companies will have to put rules and regulations in place to ensure that that the tech is being used the right way – keeping the patient experience in mind.