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The Adoption of AI and Machine Learning in Healthcare: What is the Right Way to Proceed?

Originally published by Being Human on Medium

Photo by Tara Winstead from Pexels

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are getting more vital than ever. Many applications and projects have been developed based on AI already. Take the example of Apple Siri or the advertising algorithms that pushes products and services based on our Google search. The question though is, can AI take the place of a human and replace him or her?!


Some believe we will be able to teach a robot or artificial material to perform tasks quickly and efficiently than a human. The idea falls on the line of a screwdriver where we use it because we cannot unscrew just by using our bare hands.


AI and machine learning can lead to endless possibilities and rise above the limitations of a human. But we have to first determine how we are going to use the technology and for what purpose- we can open a screw, scrape a wooden surface or even “stab” someone with it! The choice rests on us.


We have to use AI Properly


I will always back technologies that can facilitate the work of humans or make it more efficient. AI or machine learning is a potential technology and sophisticated tool but it needs to be used properly for human benefit- otherwise, it can lead to disastrous results!


We have seen in movies like the Terminator how AI-powered robots go on a killing spree. Such advanced technology forfeits any human emotion or feelings and behaves based on its programming. In ancient times of sword fight, the opponents faced each other and there were chances of forgiving and empathy. But today you can send a missile and kill thousands of people just by pushing a button without considering if all those killed are innocent or criminals.


Technology needs to be used correctly for it to benefit humans. AI has great potential for physicians and can facilitate healthcare extensively.


Can AI Robots replace Physicians?


Many suffer from the misconception and false belief that AI will be able to replace physicians in the future. But even if it did have the capability, would it be a good idea to do so?


Human life is not based on some algorithm or mathematical formula. It involves human relations, interactions, social environment and perceiving life from a human perspective. A machine will not be able to perceive such things and hamper the physician-patient relationship.


Let us not forget that health and human life is not just based on lab tests and radiological findings. There is an aspect of personal choice and quality of life that interweaves in all interactions with healthcare.


The healing process also depends on compassion, empathy, and emotion which are crucial for a positive patient outcome. You might be able to teach a robot to be empathetic, but that will always be on artificial grounds and programmed.


Ruling out physicians also make us over-dependent on the artificial machines. We have seen that such overdependence on technology always creates negative consequences. We can again give the example of nuclear warfare where pressing a button kills criminals and innocents in thousands without caring for collateral damage. We are experiencing a trend in any place of the world such as Syria and Israel.


This is outright misuse of technology!

Health and Disease Defined

Before we say machines can replace physicians, we need to understand what are health and disease.


Health can be defined as a state of mental, physical and social wellbeing and not just elimination of disability or diseases. Disease, on the other hand, is any discomfort or pain that afflicts humans and causes discomfort, disability or death. In a broader sense, it includes any injury, disorder, disability, infection, deviant behaviors, isolated symptoms, and other aspects.


Based on the definitions, we can clearly find the factors which can never be expected in case of AI robots. It makes room for many questions:


  1. Are we looking to treat humans or some arithmetic formula?

  2. Are we just prolonging life or delaying death?

  3. Will the healthcare standards be developed based on population model or individual medicine?

We need to answer these questions before we can say that robots can replace physicians. According to my belief, artificial intelligence is just magnification of human capabilities and not necessarily good or bad in itself- it depends on how we use it!

AI can very well result in an artificial healthcare provider which works for the majority. But it will never be able to deliver personalized care based on Hippocrates principles of compassion, empathy, and humanity- the aspects which are needed to efficiently address the health issues of a person.


Physicians will Always be Required


Physicians will always be required to understand human disease and treat them with empathy and sincerity. Robots can only cater to numbers and algorithms and will never address the components of human life such as integrity and dignity. It also lacks the intuitive human instinct that doctors rely along on while clinical decisions about a patient.

AI will not be able to deliver the golden recommendations of Hippocrates- “Care sometimes, treat often, comfort always!”


AI is really powerful and we need to be careful that it doesn’t turn into a monster. If used properly it can bring precision to medical practice and help doctors observe the patient objective through the intelligent lens of AI.


Let us join hands and create a healthcare industry that utilizes technology to break the boundaries of poverty, politics, and borders altogether!


#AI #Healthtechnology

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