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Can Artifical Intelligence Replace Your Doctor?

Artificial intelligence (AI) has moved into physicians’ exam rooms in my institution, albeit on a beta testing basis.

Software will be able to listen in to the conversations and then generate an office note.  AI will be able to distinguish among the patient, the physician and others present.  One of the casualties of this innovation is that patients will no longer enjoy the experience of watching the physician spend most of the allotted time pecking on the keyboard without eye contact. Yes, doctors and patients in the AI era will be nostalgic for the good old days when physicians battled and often surrendered to their computer adversaries.

Does AI generated office notes sound too futuristic?  We ain’t seen nothing yet.  I suspect that most of AI’s future role in my profession and yours and elsewhere is beyond our imagination. 

We're entering a new dimension!

At least in the short term, physicians will need to review AI generated notes for accuracy and may be required to click on a box absolving the AI vendor of all responsibility. 

By clicking this box, the provider accepts all responsibility for the accuracy of the medical note as AI can be inaccurate, unreliable, confusing and wrong.  Important information may have been deleted.  The AI company will be held harmless against all claims alleging that its product led to or contributed to an unfavorable medical outcome.  The provider has sole and absolute responsibility to verify the integrity of the medical record.

I just made up the above disclaimer, but I suspect I’m not that far off the mark.  Similar disclaimers are omnipresent.  Just recently I was sending a package from UPS, and I had to scroll down through pages of legal nonsense – none of which any customer has ever read – so that I could click on the CONFIRM button.  Perhaps, next time I should bring my lawyer with me?

AI generated medical office records are just entry level stuff.  Does anyone doubt that the diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities of AI will eclipse that of human healers?  You don’t believe this?  So, AI will be able to drive a truck, fly a plane, compose music, design a building, craft a complex legal contract, write poetry but somehow will be unable to practice medicine?  This is ridiculous.  And for those who assert that no machine will be able to replace a surgeon burrowing into the abdomen, I wouldn’t wager heavily on that assertion.  I find the notion of a AI directing a robot to remove an faraway appendix to be less fantastic than so many other realities that heretofore would have been deemed to be impossible. 

The AI tsunami will be unstoppable.  The Screen Actors Guild lobbied hard for protections against AI, which we know can generate realistic ‘actors’.  Do they and the rest of us think that they  can hold out against this? (Hint: they can't.) Look how well we’ve done restraining the nefarious and intentional addictive effects of social media. (Hint: not well.)

Get ready for a science fiction revolution that will make the internet seem like an abacus. 

I dedicate this post to Rod Serling who taught us all that what seems to be beyond our imagination today may be reality tomorrow.



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