AI making doctors obsolete? Don't count on it

By Folake Dosu  |  November 21, 2018

artificial-intelligence-medicine

With AI making rapid gains in the healthcare sector, some wonder how the job security of medical professionals will be impacted. According to Healthcare Finance, not anytime soon.

The outlet interviewed experts as part of a series focusing on artificial intelligence. Citing an estimate from Accenture that AI health market will reach $6.6 billion by 202, their verdict is that AI will inevitably transform the industry, but doctors and nurses will need to gather and analyze the massive amounts of data needed for the technology to work.

To PeriGen CEO Matthew Sappern, AI should be seen as a way to empower medical professionals, not as a tool that endangers their livelihoods.

"I think it does things that are really imperative that are not necessarily what nurses can do," Sappern told Healthcare Finance. "These tools are not so great where reasoning and empathy are required. You teach them to do something, and they will do it over and over and over again, period. They're good tools to provide perspective, but it's all about the provider or nurse who's making sense of that information."

Sappern thinks AI can free up the workload of nurses to focus on the intangibles that are important to quality patient care and reinforce their clinical observations with hard data.

While AI might compromise the job security of less specialized jobs within health care such as administrative work, these experts contend that AI should be viewed as a tool for highly trained professionals, rather than a threat.

They see the potential for the technology to assist physicians in short staffed hospitals and reduce repetitive tasks. Pattern recognition stands out as one of the most exciting applications for AI in healthcare.

"As one doctor, you can't possibly see a million patients across your lifetime. But medicine, at least diagnosis, is all in the pattern recognition. So I think it's going to be very exciting when we find ways to augment our diagnoses and make them a lot more robust."

"People see it as a job replacement thing and I think that's a pretty flawed way to look at it," said Mary Sun, AI researcher at First Derm and medical student at Mount Sinai Medical Center, to Healthcare Finance. "In many other industries, like when I was in commercial tech, it's viewed much more as an augmentation, and piece of mind, and double checking and making sure that you're involving patterns that one doctor cannot possibly see.

"As one doctor, you can't possibly see a million patients across your lifetime. But medicine, at least diagnosis, is all in the pattern recognition. So I think it's going to be very exciting when we find ways to augment our diagnoses and make them a lot more robust."

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