Which medical professions can ethically be replaced with AI?

By Claudio Buttice | Last updated: May 23, 2018

The introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) into health care is revolutionizing the delivery of care. Right now, hospitals are buying AI systems, not with the intention of replacing humans, but to improve care or streamline the administration process. However, as AI and machine learning systems are becoming better than humans at detecting diseases and costing less, many are legitimately questioning whether it is ethical to replace some types of doctors.

Some of the newer AI-powered software used to scan medical imaging reports are able to spot details that human eyes cannot find, potentially saving more lives than even the best doctor. More importantly, they can scour the reports for signs of other conditions which may differ from the one that the pathologist was looking for when the test was performed. They could even be used retroactively to re-scan millions of electronic medical records to find any symptom of an otherwise unknown disease in a fraction of the time required by a human doctor.

Some studies have proven that when an urgent diagnosis is required, a deep learning algorithm is better and quicker at diagnosing cancers than human radiologists. Machines operate better than humans when under pressure, and in most real-world settings they can outperform them since they never get distracted or get tired.

AI is also better at predicting health events and determining which data is relevant to treat a specific patient's disease. Machines can scan through thousands of clinical papers and medical reports in the blink of an eye, and never get overwhelmed by the excess of data. However, even if they can provide useful insights to humans, a real doctor's experience and ability to devise new treatment strategies are still critical.

While humans will always be required to work side by side with machines, there's a chance that some specific medical professions such as the radiologists and pathologists may be replaced. As more lives could be saved, it could even be unethical not to do so in the near future.

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Artificial Intelligence IT Healthcare Machine Learning

Written by Claudio Buttice | Data Analyst, Contributor

Profile Picture of Claudio Buttice

Dr. Claudio Butticè, Pharm.D., is a former clinical and hospital pharmacist who worked for several public hospitals in Italy, as well as for the humanitarian NGO Emergency. He is now an accomplished book author who has written on topics such as medicine, technology, world poverty, human rights, and science for publishers such as SAGE Publishing, ABC-Clio, and Mission Bell Media. His latest book is "Universal Health Care" (Greenwood Publishing, 2019).

A data analyst and freelance journalist as well, many of his articles have been published in magazines such as Cracked, The Elephant, Digital Journal, The Ring of Fire, and Business Insider. Dr. Butticè also published pharmacology and psychology papers on several clinical journals, and works as a medical consultant and advisor for many companies across the globe.

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