AI in Healthcare: Pros and Cons

AI stands for Artificial Intelligence and is the use of machines to complete tasks (tasks such as diagnosing diseases, driving cars etc).  AI is becoming more common and used by medical professionals for a variety of reasons.

As a result, there are a number of pros and cons that come with the introduction of AI into healthcare. These could include a change in the workforce required, a more efficient way to diagnose patients, a more accurate diagnosis and a change in the way patient interaction is viewed.

A health professional holding a phone

One of the biggest benefits of AI in a medical setting is as a means for a more efficient diagnosis. Usually, a human doctor will have to rely on a number of different signs and symptoms before they can come up with a diagnosis, but by using AI this process can be shortened and a more accurate result given. For example, if a patient has an increased heart rate and their skin becomes a certain colour a computer program using AI could immediately identify a possible diagnosis of a heart attack.

Benefits of AI

AI has a number of benefits over a human doctor when it comes to a more accurate diagnosis for a number of reasons. Firstly a computer can be given a large amount of information and use that to make a decision rather than relying on an almost completely subjective method a doctor would use. This could include a number of symptoms a patient describes and their reaction to a medicine a doctor gives them, which can all be printed out in a report for a computer program to look through.

A medical diagnosis is not always based on symptoms though and it can require a lot of independent research before a medical professional decides on a diagnosis. Instead, a computer could be given a large list of historical patient data and a number of different sources a doctor would usually have to read or research to make a conclusion.

This is not the only area where AI can help a medical professional with their job though, as it can also be used in the process after a diagnosis has been made. A human doctor would have to make a treatment plan for a patient, but if a computer program was used it could suggest a number of treatments based on a person’s history and current state. This means a lot less time spent studying the different types of cancers before coming up with good treatment, something that is time consuming and a less accurate method of treatment compared to a computer program.

AI is not just used for a faster, more efficient diagnosis though as it can also be used to help a patient with their health in a number of other ways. This could be through a reminder system that tells a person when they need to take their medication or if they carry a high risk of a certain disease. This could be automatic in a smart home or a device a person wears on their wrist, which would make it easier to keep track of when they need to take medicine (and if they didn’t take their medication an alert can be sent to a doctor).

This is a very beneficial use for AI as a large number of people do not follow a treatment plan or take the medicine they are meant to, which can lead to a number of issues. This is a problem especially with psychiatric illnesses where a patient may have stopped taking their medication without realising it. By using this reminder system a person has the ability to monitor themselves and make sure they are following a treatment plan.

AI can also be a benefit to a doctor as they may not have a completely accurate diagnosis with a patient and the only way to confirm this is by observing a person’s behaviour, something a doctor has limited time with a patient to do so. As a result, AI could monitor a person’s behaviour and provide their doctor with an accurate diagnosis that a human doctor would not have the time to collect.

This is a benefit that can save a lot of time for a medical professional as it means they will not have to spend a certain period of time with a person where they are tested, providing results and forming a plan depending on these results. If a computer program could provide them with a conclusion, a doctor would not waste a large amount of time and patients will get a more accurate diagnosis.

As a result of this, a medical professional may be able to provide a better treatment plan as they have the ability to make a decision based on a number of different sources, which can allow them to find a treatment method that is most optimal for a patient.

Human Perspective

However, a lot of professionals have a negative outlook on a computer program being used in a medical setting as a human doctor should be able to provide a more accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Because AI is a machine it does not come with the same type of feelings that a human would feel about a fellow person, which means doctors should be able to provide a more compassionate diagnosis than a computer program would be able to. 

This means a human doctor is a better option for a medical problem compared to a machine, no matter how fast or efficient it may be.

This can also lead people into thinking that the only thing that needs to be done in a medical setting is providing an accurate diagnosis and a treatment plan when in reality, a medical professional would also take a person’s emotional state into consideration when helping a person – something a computer program would not be able to do. In a situation where a disease or illness is causing a patient a large amount of stress, it may be better for a doctor to visit the patient in order to help them control their emotions.

This would benefit a medical professional, as a more personal visit can help a patient feel more comfortable with their doctor, and the higher level of trust that can be achieved in this way can help the doctor reach a better diagnosis. This is beneficial for them both as if a doctor has a good relationship with a given patient, they are able to learn more about the respective illness, and the patient may be more open to a treatment plan that a doctor recommends if they feel comfortable with them.

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