Home / News / May / 2023 / Health+Tech | The role of AI chatbots in healthcare access, diagnosis and treatment

Health+Tech | The role of AI chatbots in healthcare access, diagnosis and treatment

There has been a lot of talk lately about artificial intelligence (AI) and the increased role it will play in the future of several industries, including healthcare. AI has for a long time been a part of healthcare but with the development of AI chatbots like ChatGPT, the incorporation of AI in everyday life as a routine part of work has taken on new meaning.

There is still much debate about whether that level of AI involvement is a good or a bad thing. I think it can be both if we don’t find a way to balance our efforts and expectations. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that there is a positive future in the use of AI chatbots in the healthcare industry.

The concept of the chatbot is similar to computer vision but with more advanced application. This is a multibillion-dollar industry that is going to have more and more future applications for industry in general, not just healthcare. We must therefore find the best way to use it to our benefit.

Globenewswire.com indicates that “the global chatbot market size is projected to be worth around US$4.9 billion by 2032 from valued at US$0.84 billion in 2022, and it is growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.29 per cent from 2023 to 2032, according to a new study by Precedence Research.”

AI continues to be one of the fastest growing market segments where technology is concerned because of the wide range of use cases, and chatbots are becoming a large part of this growth.

Computer vision, machine learning, and other algorithms are used to enable AI to interpret, predict, and carry out functions that humans would normally have to do, but with increased speed and efficiency. For example, computer vision has enabled the development of autonomous or self-driving vehicles. AI has always been useful in healthcare, and chatbots are set to revolutionise healthcare diagnosis and treatment.

In its simplest form, chatbots in healthcare can be used primarily as a means of communication between patient and caregiver, which saves time on both ends. Chatbots are currently used to assist with appointment scheduling, respond to routine patient questions, get information on medical facilities, chronic disease management and mental healthcare and set reminders for vaccinations and prescription refills, among other things. Chatbots are moving further now, allowing physicians and others to engage AI in more technical tasks.

A reliable medical AI chatbot could help with diagnosis and treatment as well as identify issues that may not be immediately apparent to physicians. This is done through computer learning and continuous updating of the technology with information for data analysis. As is the case with ChatGPT, the chatbot would provide detailed information and probable scenarios based on the questions fed into the software.

It is important to remember that the dataset that would be used in this process would be provided and updated by medical personnel who would need to ensure that the best available information is fed into the AI.

An article that appeared in the PLOS digital health journal in February 2023 reported the findings of a group of researchers, who evaluated ChatGPT and its use in the field of medicine (Kung et al., 2023). They found that the chatbot was able to pass all three levels of the United States Medical Licensing Exams “without any specialized training or reinforcement”. In addition, the chatbot “demonstrated a high level of concordance and insight in its explanations. These results suggest that large language models may have the potential to assist with medical education, and potentially, clinical decision-making.”

This, even though ChatGPT is not a specialised medical AI chatbot. Medical AI chatbots would be programmed specifically for that purpose with the involvement of medical personnel. As the industry changes, so, too, would the information be updated to fit the requirements of the field.

The future of AI in healthcare in this respect is positive and encouraging. The AI will soon be capable of assisting with technical and rare diagnosis and providing treatment protocols for patients. This is not to say that there will be an AI takeover. The human element will still be important to ensure accuracy.

Doug Halsall is the chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems. Email feedback to doug.halsall@gmail.com and editorial@gleanerjm.com

Published: Sunday | May 28, 2023 | 12:19 AM