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Can Artificial Intelligence Replace Doctors In The Near Future?

Expert opinion suggests that artificial intelligent may be the future of medicine, but would there still be a need for human doctors when AI takes over? Are doctors going to lose their jobs and relevance?

 

Artificial intelligence has shown great promise in the field of healthcare over the years and its application in clinical medicine continues to upsurge, however, the question “can artificial intelligence replace doctors?” continue to resurface at every technological advancement.  AI already plays vital roles in medical diagnostics, cancer detection, radiology, and other diverse healthcare departments. In retrospect, AI has achieved great strides from workflow to algorithm-based success rates.  A report by Accenture stated that the artificial intelligence health market will certainly exceed $6.6 billion by the year 2021. This is a major increase from 2014’s $600 million. So the question on everyone’s lips is, will artificial intelligence replace doctors?

Vinod Khosla, a renowned Silicon Valley investor stated with certainty, that AI will replace medical practitioners by 2035 and there quite a number of reasons to support the prediction. A study on cancer at Massachusetts general hospital in 2017 showed that AI had a higher percentage of accuracy at reading mammograms than radiologists in the detection of high-risk cancer requiring surgery.

Similarly, it was stated by the Journal of American Medical Association that computers could provide equally accurate retinal readings with ophthalmologists on diabetics. To further buttress the point, computer-controlled robots are now able to perform successful intestinal surgery on test animals. Even though the time taken to complete the surgery was reasonably longer than a human would take, the sutures were precise and more accurate with fewer errors.

AI utilizes deep machine learning to understand and manage large data in order to better predict outcomes of procedures and recommend suitable, cost-effective solutions.  AI healthcare applications include:

  • Predictions and recommendations
  • Diagnostics
  • Electronic health records
  • Genetic data
  • Patient demographic information
  • Medical imaging
  • Prescription data
  • Algorithms to detect dislocations and fractures
  • Detect cognitive decline

The intellect of machines provides mankind with the opportunity to improve on healthcare delivery especially in situations of highly contagious disease outbreaks or low-resource.   From a pragmatic point of view, it can be deduced that AI is equitable and stands as an automated physician that neither needs to sleep or eat, is never on vacation or off duty, is never sick or emotionally incapable of performing certain procedures. AI goes as far as communicating in multiple languages, impartial, and cannot be infected hereby reducing personal health risks to a physician to an absolute zero. In spite of these great features, can a machine provide better patient care?

Empathy in Medicine can be therapeutic

Therapy comes in different forms and can be humanized in many ways. Machines cannot be empathic; rather they are logical and can never stand as a substitute to human sympathy, empathy, and capacity. Patient-centered care often revolves around the humane side of the medical practitioner. Mental disorders and patients who suffer from the influence of substance addiction require counseling and humanitarian services as well as other medical procedures which is largely beyond the capacity of artificial intelligence.

IBM Watson uses AI technology in recommending treatment procedures for cancer through cognitive computing. AI is in high demand and particularly useful in rural areas where there is a shortage of highly trained professionals. However, these services should be supplementary to the doctor’s repertoire of knowledge, not a complete substitute for it.

Can Artificial Intelligence replace Doctors – What do experts think?

Many experts and medical professionals have been approached with the question of “will robots replace doctors?”  The answer so far has been the same.  It is imperative that the line is drawn between the “tool” and the operator. The tools are used to gather valuable information conducts procedures and expedite patient recovery, however, the job of making sense of the information, operating the tool and reprogramming the tool is still left to the doctor.

Artificial intelligence relies on large amounts of data to be significant. Gathering this data is where human effort becomes a necessity. AI can be used to handle repetitive tasks and as an augmentation to human capabilities and not the other way around.

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