Artificial intelligence systems simulate human intelligence through learning, reasoning and self-correction. This technology has the potential to be more accurate than doctors in conducting diagnostics and performing surgeries, "says Jörg Goldhahn, MD, MAS, deputy head of the Institute for Transfer Medicine at ETH Zurich, Switzerland.
It has an 'almost limitless capacity' for data processing and further learning and can do so at a speed that people can not match.
Increased amounts of health data are collected, from applications, personal monitoring devices, electronic health records and social media platforms, to give cars as much information as possible about people and their illnesses. At the same time, machines "read" and take into account the rapidly expanding scientific literature.
"The notion that physicians today could approximate this knowledge by keeping in touch with current medical research, while keeping close contacts with patients, is an illusion, not least because of the large amount of data," Goldhahn says.
Learning in the car is also not subject to the same level of potential bias seen in the human learning process, which reflects cultural influences and links with certain institutions, for example.
While the capacity to form relationships with patients is often presented as an argument in favor of human doctors, it can also be "the Achilles heel," Goldhahn points out. Trust is important for patients, but machines and systems can be more trustworthy than people if they can be considered impartial and without conflicts of interest.
Moreover, some patients, especially the youngest and the minor, can assess the correct diagnosis better than empathy or continuity of care, he says. "In some very personal situations, the services of a robot could help patients avoid shame.
The main challenges for today's health systems are rising costs and insufficient numbers of physicians. "Introducing AI-based systems could be cheaper than hiring new staff," says Goldhahn. They are universally available and can even monitor patients remotely. "Doctors, as we know them now, will eventually become useless.
But Vanessa Rampton at the McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy in Montréal, Canada and Professor Giatgen Spinas at the University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, argue that cars will never replace physicians altogether because the interrelational relationship between doctor and patient is vital and not can be reproduced.
They agree that cars will increasingly be able to carry out the tasks that doctors today do, such as diagnosis and treatment, but say that doctors will stay because they are better off to treat the patient as a person whole.
Physicians can refer to the patient as a human being and can acquire holistic knowledge about their illness because it refers to the patient's life, they say.
A physician-patient relationship in which the physician thinks sideways and takes into account patient's preferences, values and circumstances is important for healing, especially for complex conditions, when there are symptoms without a clear cause and if there is a high risk of adverse effects.
The feeling that they have been heard by someone who understands the gravity of the problem and whom they can trust can be crucial to patients, Rampton and Spinas argue.
"Computers are not capable of taking care of patients in the sense of their devotion or concern to the other as a person, because they are not people and they do not care about anything. Sophisticated robots could show empathy as a form of form, people they may behave nicely in social situations, but remain emotionally loose as they only fulfill a social role. "
Most importantly, there will be no cure for some patients – care will be to help them have the best quality of life possible with their condition and for the longest time. "Here doctors are irreplaceable," she stresses. "Robots can not understand our worry about diseases related to the burden of living a life."
Regulated and well-implemented, learning machines have the potential to bring great benefits to patients but want to receive a terminal diagnosis from a robot, asks Michael Mittelman and colleagues in a patient's commentary?
"Patients need to be cared for by people, especially when we are sick and the most vulnerable. A car will never be able to show us true comfort," they say.
They recognize that AI can have the potential to become a highly useful and innovative aid in healthcare but hopes that there will always be room for humanity – human health professionals.
Eventually, nobody wants to tell him that he is dying of an entity who can not understand what this means. We see AI as a servant and not a director of our medical care, "he concludes.
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