It seems we’re all preparing for a future doctor’s visit where we deal more with screens than people. And that might soon be the case in a hectic ER, but if we’re just visiting our general physician, I predict we’ll still be greeted by nurses for the foreseeable future.
I see AI’s march into the medical world starting in one area: Specialists.
Alphabet’s DeepMind just announced its intention to make a product that will be able to scan human eyeballs for disease just as well as any specialist. I can’t imagine skin disorders being too far off after that.
Mole checks, foot fungus, freaky toenails, everything that can receive a “Yep, that’s [blank]” from a doctor will more frequently be handled by your general practitioner. You’ll get fewer recommendations to head to a separate doctor’s office. This might sound like chimes of liberation to those with an HMO!
Ear, Nose, and Throat might just as well become a simple plug-in. Downloadable Content, or DLC to my gaming brethren.
This certainly spells hard times for those well-educated individuals that chose to specialize their talents, but it speaks to the true nature of how AI can, and will, be integrated into our lives in the near future.
We’re not going to have walking, talking androids guide us to that smaller waiting room. But we will have a primary-care physician equipped with the power of AI to more frequently be able to tell us what is wrong with us. And how to get better most efficiently.
The current conversations surrounding AI tend to focus more on the fear of destroying lower earning positions, but many of those positions are customer facing, patient facing. Those roles will be among the last to be replaced.
The human element is harder to replicate, but deep knowledge bases are ideal for the infinite storage space, and lightning fast processing speed found in any handheld device these days.
This overwhelmingly positive news means that rural areas will see a quality-of-life boom that is long overdue. People farther from city centers will be able to live a healthier life!
But there will also be a decreased demand for certain specialties in medicine that were once thought to be a completely safe, and rewarding career path.
My advice to those in that position: Your years of dedication and knowledge can help shape the future well-being of far more than just your own patients. So please don’t shy away from that new thing that you fear might one day replace you.
Please run toward this emerging technology with conviction. Find new and novel ways to incorporate this technology into your practice. Never forget the human element in what you do, but allow AI to increase your precision and efficiency in your current practice.
You’ll be able to do more good, for more people than ever before. Help shape the tools that we’ll all depend on in the future.
Consider this part of your Hippocratic oath. Please and thank you.