Could AI reduce our dependence on doctors?

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The recent rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have sparked discussions about its potential to revolutionize various industries, including healthcare. One of the most intriguing possibilities is the replacement of doctors with AI-driven systems for medical diagnosis. While this notion may seem daunting to some, the capabilities of AI coupled with technological innovations suggest that such a scenario could become a reality in the near future.

One of the key advantages of AI in healthcare is its ability to access and process vast amounts of medical data. With access to a comprehensive database of best practice guidelines for all known diseases, AI-powered systems can potentially outperform traditional face-to-face consultations in terms of efficiency and accuracy.

Imagine a scenario where individuals can use their smartphones to interact with AI-driven apps designed to capture moving or 3D images of potential sites of disease. These apps could incorporate a series of questions to aid in diagnosis, similar to the UK’s 111 service, but with the added intelligence of AI. These algorithm-driven apps could provide quantitative metrics such as lesion size or colour, leveraging additional peripheral diagnostic tools like sphygmomanometers, thermometers, ECG monitors, and digital oximeters, all operable by the average patient or caregiver. The patient would take measurements according to the app’s spoken guidance and capture and save the results. The beauty of this remote, AI-driven system lies in its ability to interpret results automatically, cross-referencing them with a vast library of therapeutic guidelines for more accurate diagnoses than traditional consultations.

At Empathetic Media Health, we are involved in an extensive programme of research and development to create AI-driven phone apps which can be used by patients to self-monitor skin conditions over time and provide physicians with qualitative and quantitative metrics to aid diagnosis and treatment. These include static and dynamic 2D and 3D images of target sites on a range of body locations using machine learning algorithms. This work has convinced us that a future scenario in which patients can use their own phones to expedite and improve diagnosis and treatment is not far away !

However, it’s essential to recognize that AI-driven diagnosis would not entirely replace the role of physicians. Instead, it would augment their capabilities by dramatically reducing the time needed for initial assessments. In this envisioned future, patients would capture and send diagnostic files to physicians, who would review, confirm, or modify the AI-generated diagnoses and recommend treatment accordingly. This streamlined process would enhance physicians’ capacity to process high volumes of patients, particularly in environments where access to healthcare is challenging, such as in the current era of difficulty in securing GP appointments.

The potential benefits of AI-driven medical diagnosis are substantial. It could significantly expedite access to healthcare, improve care quality, and potentially reduce the strain on healthcare systems by optimizing resource utilization.

In conclusion, while the idea of AI replacing doctors may seem far-fetched, the advances in AI technology coupled with innovations in healthcare suggest otherwise. The integration of AI-driven systems for medical diagnosis has the potential to transform healthcare delivery, offering a glimpse into a future where access to quality healthcare is more efficient, effective, and equitable.

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