Artificial intelligence seemed to be a mere myth when it first was used in our society. However, ever since the automaton Deep Blue beat the previous world chess champion, Garry Kasparov, AI has slowly encroached upon various occupations, ranging from online assistants to journalists. One remarkable area in which AI is emerging is the field of medicine. Computer systems have especially been playing important roles in diagnosis and surgeries.
Although it may seem impossible to some for a primitive AI to diagnose humans, artificial intelligence’s diagnosing patients has been escalating lately, bringing both benefits and costs. For instance, the National Health Service (NHS) created an alternative to the NHS 111 hotline in hopes of satisfying the customers’ needs as well as the doctors’: an application that includes a chatbot. This chatbot consults the patient by asking a series of questions regarding their current state and symptoms. Using its own discretion, the chatbot gives further instructions to the patient, including whether to visit hospital.
As the Chief officer of London Central stated, the “use of an app could reduce the demand on NHS 111 during the most busy periods, whilst retaining the high quality and accessible service.” With the escalating number of demands on the hotline, the implementation of such an application could possibly increase the number of satisfied patients. The NHS continues to struggle with a huge influx of patients; so, the help of a robot determining whether the patient is seriously ill will be cost effective.
However, there can be detrimental consequences if AI takes complete control of the helpline. There still exists a possibility that the system diagnoses a serious illness incorrectly. In extreme cases, this could lead to deaths. In fact, Dr. Chaand Napual, the chair of the British Medicine Association, contends that the chatbot could run counter to its aim as it could prompt an influx of patients who do not need immediate treatments.
Whether or not the benefits of AI outweigh the costs is still a controversial topic as there are many ethical and technological problems that exist. Nevertheless, as depicted by how AI is being used medicinally, the use of AI is high risk, high reward. That being said, there must be set limitations as to the extent to which it is used to treat humans. Though the economical benefits are appealing, the duty of a doctor, as claimed by the well-known neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi, is to “take into [their] arms a patient whose lives have been disintegrated” and “work until they can make sense of their own existence.” With the rise in AI research, we should not forget that these are some things that only humans can do.
Will doctors be eliminated in any time soon? I beg to differ.