Whenever you’re feeling sick, most people will tell you not to Google your symptoms or try to self-diagnose: That’s the quickest way to spiral into panic mode. Reading a list of possible diseases you didn’t even know existed but now are sure you have brings the hypochondriac out of even the most stoic person.
But what happens when you can search the internet for physician-level diagnoses of your aches and pains? (And it actually helps facilitate your health care?)
Unless you’ve been living under a rock running business or taking care of children, you’ve undoubtedly heard about ChatGPT and the advancements in AI technology. A recent study that was published on medRxiv declared that ChatGPT “performed at or near the passing threshold” for the U.S. Medical License Examinations (USMLE), the exams that medical students and physicians-in-training are required to pass to receive their medical licensure in the U.S. That means “without any specialized training or reinforcement,” ChatGPT is becoming specialized in areas that take humans 12 to 16 years of education to prepare for.
Every person wants the best, most qualified specialist to take care of their health and the health of their loved ones, so what does this new study mean for doctors and the future of health care? Can doctors work to integrate ChatGPT (and other AI) into our health care system to provide premium care for every patient?
I’m a board-certified medical oncologist in the medical field for over 25 years. As a teacher-scholar published in national and peer-to-peer review journals, I’ve seen tens of thousands of patients and taught thousands of trainees over the last few decades. Now I’m seeing how AI works its way into our hospitals and clinics daily.
Some people will immediately embrace ChatGPT as a medical resource, while others will avoid it for as long as they can. Both feelings are justified, but I would love to shed some light on the pros and cons of what this new technology means for health care and start to bridge the gap between AI and the medical field so that our communities can have the best health care experience imaginable.
Pros of including ChatGPT in our health care system
Searching for symptoms accurately can prompt patients to see a doctor earlier than they typically would and identify a diagnosis and treatment earlier (potentially saving costs on treatments down the road).
It allows patients to prepare questions for the doctor beforehand, ensuring nothing gets missed during a visit.
Can reduce the anxiety some patients feel going into a doctor’s office without having any answers and a theoretical list of possible issues.
Assists in radiology and can be helpful when comparing scans.
Helps with patients’ adherence to medications.
Can be used as a “second opinion” that a doctor can confirm (limiting the potential amount of doctors a patient needs to visit for a diagnosis).
Cons of including ChatGPT in our health care system
Can lead to inappropriate procedures requested by patients.
While it can decrease some people’s anxiety, it can increase the anxiety of others, much like googling your symptoms might now.
It could take longer during the appointment because it would be asked for irrelevant information and not have enough time to spend on the relevant information.
The prediction of recommendations for treatment from AI can be flat-out incorrect. There are many variables in making a diagnosis and treatment plan, like personal comorbidities (e.g., liver and kidney function, the medications a person is taking, etc.), which are often not considered when we ask AI questions.
AI techniques aren’t going away and are only getting more advanced, so we need to ask ourselves, “What is the role of chatGPT in our health care?” Education helps people develop the skills and knowledge needed to use resources better, so it’s in our best interest to learn as much as we can about ChatGPT and other AI technology to know how to integrate it into our daily lives and hopefully make them better!
I would love to help your audience start bridging the gap between ChatGPT (and all of AI) and their health care providers so they can live their most effective and healthy lives possible.
Liudmila Schafer is a board-certified, award-winning medical oncologist, an associate professor of medicine, and author of The Other Side of Oncology. She is CEO, The Doctor Connect consultancy specializing in helping physicians to unlock their full potential for passion-driven business and media appearances utilizing credentials through “national impact strategy.” She can be reached on Twitter @MdLiudmila, Instagram @dr_liudmilas, Facebook, and YouTube.