Will AI Threaten Clinicians Or Be Their Ally?

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Alexandr Khomich, President & CEO at Andersen.

Will the future of healthcare be driven by cold binary code or human hands? The debate around the role of artificial intelligence in medicine is truly intense.

ChatGPT can now pass medical licensing exams, and algorithms churn through data at inhuman speeds—leading some to predict the days of human doctors are numbered. However, many clinicians push back, arguing their expertise and compassion will always be needed.

Dystopian Dive: Common Fears Related To AI Taking Over

A decade ago, Elon Musk compared the rapid acceleration of AI capabilities to “summoning the demon”—potentially unleashing forces beyond human control. So much has changed in the world ever since, and the state of AI back then can’t even remotely compare to today’s advances. No wonder many people fear that this powerful technology can become a dystopian healthcare nightmare where robotic doctors diagnose patients based on algorithms alone. Moreover, autonomous systems like ChatGPT lack contextual information that is indispensable for ethical, holistic care.

In this model, bedside manner and the human touch get left behind. AI bias creeps in—and marginalized groups receive subpar care. Can we trust autonomous systems with life-or-death decisions without human oversight? Will we still be able to provide such oversight?

With the impressive proliferation of technology, there are grounds for such concerns. Statista predicts that the global healthcare AI market will make up almost $188 billion by 2030, with a CAGR of 37% from 2022 to 2030.

However, leading experts are debunking a Terminator-like scenario due to current geopolitical and economic realities. AI progress requires stable funding and R&D support, which are now hampered by global conflicts, authoritarianism and economic stagnation. Concentrated AI advancement seems unlikely when progress is distributed across competing nations and companies. Moreover, healthcare AI has yet to live up to expectations, with solutions like Babylon Health failing to deliver on their promises of matching or surpassing human physicians.

Approaching The Era Of Augmented Intelligence

Beyond the hype and horror stories, many healthcare insiders provide a more nuanced, optimistic perspective on AI’s potential—if developed responsibly. Among them are Gil Bashe, Andrej Vitushka and João Bocas, who addressed this issue at the recent webinar “Healthcare 2024: AI, Generative AI, and Non-Obvious AI.” Their convictions give hope for a future where AI unleashes its remarkable potential under the wise guidance of human doctors.

We should regard AI as an extension of humanity, greatly enhancing doctors’ skills. Currently, it cannot compete with seasoned specialists, and it probably won’t anytime soon. Human experts, not algorithms, remain in the driver’s seat, with AI strengthening their expertise.

Those framing AI as a threat overlook the immense benefits of thoughtful integration. We heavily rely on technology anyway—just a glance at passers-by in the street or subway passengers proves that people greatly depend on gadgets. Why deny the obvious fact that we can and should use AI for our benefit?

Intelligent algorithms can analyze complex datasets beyond human capacity, freeing up doctors to focus on building connections with patients. Rather than handing over diagnostics entirely to AI, the ideal scenario keeps physicians overseeing its recommendations. Finally, it’s us humans who feed information into machines and make them learn and analyze ideas produced by people. So far, everything depends on our reasonable approach to AI. Gil Bashe conveys this idea perfectly, “I don’t call AI artificial. To me, it is truly aggregated intelligence. It is the wealth of our experience brought into machine learning.”

We should debunk the myth that AI chatbots will make doctors obsolete. No technology can replicate the empathy, compassion and insight of clinicians. Smart algorithms aim to augment, not automate away, physicians’ invaluable skills.

However, complacency is unacceptable. Healthcare professionals should take an active role in shaping AI’s development. With human control and clinician input, AI can be designed as an empowering healthcare partner aligned with patient values. But without end-user involvement, it risks losing the human touch.

The potential of AI is particularly notable in areas such as wearable devices. Coupled with smart data analysis, they open up vast horizons for preventive care and early disease intervention. However, realizing this potential requires overcoming barriers around trust, transparency and equitable access. AI developers must keep ethics in mind, not just efficiency.

The Future Is Now: Directing AI’s Trajectory In Healthcare

AI holds revolutionary potential to improve care, so we should reject dystopian scenarios and concentrate on the value it may give us. With ethical development centered on human priorities—not profit or progress alone—AI can usher in an era of augmented healthcare. The key is ensuring alignment with the values that will forever underpin quality care—compassion, empathy and the human touch.

The question now is, how do we steer AI’s course to uplift medicine rather than undermine it? Here is how we could guide its trajectory.

• Human expertise must remain a top priority in clinical settings.

• Doctors must shape the development of AI and ensure it fully aligns with human values.

• Quality data inputs are essential. Specialists must feed accurate data into AI systems and provide oversight and nuanced interpretation.

• While risks like bias and deep fakes persist, healthcare experts should establish trust through validation studies and transparency.

• Interoperability challenges remain, but thoughtful design focused on integrating AI into clinical workflows—not disrupting them—is key.

• Clinicians should actively shape AI’s evolution, not watch passively from the sidelines.

The future role of physicians and algorithms is collaboration, not competition. If we use AI responsibly, we’ll unlock astounding benefits.

Conclusion

Substantial changes brought about by technology are inevitable in healthcare. Yet, the ultimate destination of the AI revolution remains undetermined. Medical professionals must ensure ethical oversight, adopt a human-centric approach to care and offer expert guidance—only then can AI be harnessed for the benefit of people. With automation, doctors will have more time for demanding tasks, and access to quality healthcare will improve. While the promise is vast, navigating the path ahead requires wisdom. The choices we make today will shape the medicine of tomorrow.


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