In the age of artificial intelligence, chat bots and automated services, our quest for empathy becomes more pressing than ever. Counterintuitively, Dr. Eric J. Topal, an American cardiologist, scientist, and best selling author, claims that artificial intelligence has the potential to enhance empathy, particularly in the vital relationship between patients and clinicians. In a recent article for The Lancet, titled “Machines and empathy in medicine” Dr. Topal explains that artificial intelligence can free up time during clinical visits, allowing clinicians to have more meaningful interactions with patients. The time saved by clinicians is also valuable for personal growth and learning, ultimately leading to a cycle of improved care during consultations.
How can artificial intelligence free up time?
- Streamlining electronic record updates and automating certain administrative tasks such as insurance pre-authorizations, scheduling follow-up visits, tests, and prescriptions.
- Deep learning apps are emerging to screen for specific medical conditions reducing the workload on clinicians.
- Chatbots provide patient autonomy by answering medical questions, reducing the need for direct contact with healthcare professionals.
- Future AI functions may include rapid synthesis and visualization of a patient’s complete medical records, real-time reviews of relevant medical literature, and providing differential diagnoses.
- There is an expectation that some hospitalized patients could be monitored at home using validated tools, potentially increasing clinical efficiency.
What might more time help achieve?
Quoting Dr. Topal’s article: “The ability to listen to a patient’s story and deep concerns; the necessity of a careful physical examination, reinforcing human touch and trust; and the genuine sense of care and compassion that lies in direct contrast to what software or machines can offer.”
Read the full article at this link on The Lancet website
PERSPECTIVES|DIGITAL MEDICINE| VOLUME 402, ISSUE 10411, P1411, OCTOBER 21, 2023, “Machines and empathy in medicine”, Eric J Topol, Published:October 21, 2023, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(23)02292-4
Alena Adarbehova, AfPH volunteer, November 8, 2023