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Artificial Intelligence Will Not Replace the Physician

Originally published by Data Driven Investor on Medium

Photo by Tara Winstead from Pexels

Compassion, emotion, empathies are all significant parts of the healing process and medical treatments. But although you can teach computers to act empathic, I believe it will always fall short of genuine emotion.

Over-dependence on tools — no matter how sophisticated and intelligent they are — only leads to human harm. For example, we over-rely on devices when it comes to fighting wars. When people fought with swords, there was no collateral damage to innocent people because combatants faced each other when they were fighting. But today, we use sophisticated bombs that have been known to kill innocent people along with the enemy — hence the misuse of technology or a case of technology gone wrong.

Some people say artificial intelligence will diagnose disease and offer treatment much better than a human being can. Before we address this question, let’s define what health and illness are. This definition has always been the subject of controversy. However, in the true sense, they are described as below:

Health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” But I think we should be cautious.

The disease is any condition that causes pain, dysfunction, distress, social problems, or death to the person afflicted, or similar problems for those in contact with the person. This broader sense includes injuries, disabilities, disorders, syndromes, infections, isolated symptoms, deviant behaviors, and atypical variations of structure and function. At the same time, in other contexts and for other purposes, these may be considered different categories.

Based on these definitions, we can identify factors that cannot be genuinely expected from artificial intelligence and technology.

Are we treating numbers and values, or are we treating human beings?

Are we prolonging life or prolonging death? Are the algorithms utilized in machine learning based on standards created for the majority of people or individuals?

These are fundamental questions to answer before we jump to a conclusion. It would be the former if an engineer treated the patient, but we talked about physicians, and medical science and medicine are not exact science.

Corporate requirements are based on the population health model, but if we are looking for personalized care based on what Hippocrates defined and individual liberty expects, only the human “physician“ offers the full spectrum of compassion, empathy, and humanity real medical needs of a person.

In short, a robot treats numbers and algorithms, but the physician treats human disease. Human life consists of dignity and integrity — places where artificial intelligence will always be lacking.

I am a big proponent of technology and healthcare, especially artificial intelligence. It is a sophisticated tool but is still a tool. If it is not used correctly, it will have devastating results.

As Hippocrates said, “Care sometimes, treat often, Comfort always.”

Sometimes the abnormal is nothing terrible, and occasionally normal is awful. So we should be careful not to unleash the artificial intelligence monster. Instead, let’s use it wisely.

Let’s deliver precision medicine to medical practice. The computer can never get to that intuitive gestalt to all the clinical decisions. Utilize machine learning to observe patient objectives through the “intelligent lens.”


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