Published on October 18, 2023, 7:23 am
Medical technology has seen significant advancements in the past year, and these developments are about to transform patients into medical experts. The traditional dynamic between doctors and patients, which has long followed the principle of “doctor knows best,” is on the verge of a monumental shift. Generative AI tools such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard, and Microsoft’s Bing are set to give individuals more power and control over their personal lives, professional tasks, and most importantly, their own health.
As these generative AI tools become increasingly intelligent, safer, and more reliable (projected to be 32 times more powerful within the next five years), everyday Americans will gain access to unparalleled medical expertise. This expertise will be delivered in easily understandable terms at any time and from any location. Already, Google’s Med-PaLM 2 has achieved an expert-level score of 86.5% on the U.S. medical license exam. Other AI tools have also matched the skill and accuracy of average doctors when it comes to diagnosing complex medical conditions.
In the near future, AI tools will integrate with health monitors and electronic medical records, providing patients with detailed information about their specific medical problems. Projects like Oracle/Cerner and Epic are already working on Electronic Health Record (EHR) initiatives that enable self-diagnosis and disease management for individuals with the same accuracy as today’s clinicians.
This newfound expertise among patients will reshape clinical practice at its very core. While public health experts have emphasized shared decision-making between clinicians and patients for years, this collaboration rarely occurs in practice. However, generative AI is going to change this reality dramatically.
Part one of this article explained why generative AI represents a significant leap forward in technology compared to anything that came before it. In part two, we will delve deeper into how generative AI will impact medicine by focusing on the doctor-patient relationship.
The current doctor-patient dynamic has always favored doctors, with patients heavily relying on them to understand their diseases and determine the best course of action. While patients can explore the internet for potential diagnoses and treatment options, it does not provide them with medical expertise. In fact, sorting through online sources often leads to confusion due to conflicting, inaccurate, outdated, and self-serving information. Unfortunately, web-surfers rarely find personalized and trustworthy advice tailored to their age, medical history, genetic makeup, current medications, and laboratory results.
Generative AI will level the playing field between doctors and patients by revolutionizing the doctor-patient dynamic. Consumer AI tools can already equip users with knowledge and expertise in various fields like artistry, music production, and coding. The next generations of these tools will offer similar capabilities to patients without a science or medicine background.
Generative AI acts as a digitized second opinion that bridges the knowledge gap between doctors and patients better than traditional search engines. By accessing vast amounts of medical texts, peer-reviewed journals, and scientific articles, ChatGPT can deliver accurate medical expertise in layman’s language that is unbiased. Unlike internet sources, generative AI tools do not have financial incentives or advertising models that could skew their responses.
To help patients and doctors navigate this upcoming era of generative AI in healthcare effectively, we can draw inspiration from proven approaches in education such as the “flipped classroom.” This model became popularized through the Khan Academy in Northern California around two decades ago.
The flipped classroom approach involves students engaging with interactive tools online before attending class rather than passively listening to lectures. This pre-class preparation allows individuals to learn at their own pace while facilitating deeper discussions and problem-solving during face-to-face sessions. In healthcare, generative AI opens up possibilities for applying a similar approach.
The current U.S. healthcare model often leaves patients feeling overwhelmed and frustrated while time constraints lead to rushed consultations and misdiagnoses for doctors—causing an estimated 800,000 deaths and disabilities annually. By implementing the flipped approach inspired by the Khan Academy, clinicians can make better use of their time during patient visits. This blueprint calls for improvements in AI technology and an evolution of medical culture, but it has the potential to create a more collaborative doctor-patient relationship and empower patients to take charge of their health.
Educators at the Khan Academy attest to the success of this innovative model in producing well-educated students while also increasing satisfaction levels among teachers and students compared to traditional educational systems. The same benefits could be achieved in American medicine as generative AI enables patient expertise and participation in healthcare decisions.
In conclusion, generative AI is on the horizon of transforming healthcare by giving patients unprecedented access to medical expertise. It will bridge the knowledge gap between doctors and patients, allowing individuals to understand their diseases better and take control of their health. By adopting proven approaches like the flipped classroom model in education, healthcare can harness generative AI’s potential to create a more collaborative doctor-patient alliance that results in improved health outcomes for all.