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5 must-read resources on artificial intelligence for doctors

We marvel at so many wonders of modern medicine, yet our industry is cuffed to clipboards and fax machines, regularly and doggedly antiquated.

The promise of artificial intelligence (AI) is its potential to release physicians from tasks better performed by automation. Here we present a current scan of the ways AI is impacting primary health care and its key stakeholders. One thing that’s clear to us — for better or worse, AI is already impacting the medical profession and that quake is set to grow exponentially.


Could A.I. Turn The Tables On The Physician Burnout Epidemic?

by The Medical Futurist (2019)

The World Medical Association calls it a pandemic of physician burnout, and says it’s time to take an innovative look to the future to help both physicians and patients prepare for the onslaught of changes in health care. If it was up to The Medical Futurist, artificial intelligence should handle all repetitive, monotonous tasks requiring no need for creativity. AI can prioritize emails and locate the latest and most relevant scientific studies with the snap of a (robotic) finger.

By using straight-forward language processing tools, the administrative burden on physicians will be diminished, and one of the biggest causes of burnout will be eliminated.


Artificial Intelligence In Healthcare: Separating Reality From Hype

by Robert Pearl, M.D., Forbes (2018)

Dr. Pearl writes the biggest barrier to utilizing AI in health care is the medical culture valuing physician intuition over evidence-based solutions. Humans value their independence and often cling to it; getting comfy with the notion of a robot peering over one’s shoulder will take years.

Pearl detects a progression to the adoption of AI in health care. He also recognizes patients being able to use a variety of AI tools to help care for their own health.


AI Can’t Replace Doctors. But It Can Make Them Better

by Dr. Rahul Parikh, MIT Technology Review (2018)

This pediatrician argues AI could bring together environmental data, genetic data and patient history quicker — and better — than he can. Dr. Parikh is excited about the kind of personal attention he could provide to his patients if AI pulled data from patient records along with daily air pollution data from government agency sensors, putting him in a position to call his patients’ families directly and give them a heads-up.


A doctor’s hopes for digital medicine

Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again, book review by The Economist (2019)

Cardiologist and book author Dr. Eric Topol is optimistic AI will be quite useful for repetitive, error-prone tasks, such as scrutinizing heart traces for abnormalities, sifting images or transcribing physicians’ words into patient records. Topol argues AI will mobilize masses of data to work out optimal patient treatments and improve workflows.

Key to Topol’s optimism though, is his belief humans will oversee the algorithms rather than be replaced by them.


10 Promising AI Applications in Health Care

by Brian Kalis, Matt Collier and Richard Fu, Harvard Business Review (2018)

HBR investigated the value of 10 promising AI applications based on how likely adoption was and the potential that exists for savings.

On the frontlines, AI is already:

  • Improving the efficiency of image analysis through its quick and accurate flagging of anomalies on an image, making it ready for a radiologist’s review;
  • Capable of classifying skin cancer on par with dermatologists;
  • Powering virtual nurse assistants which are interacting with patients, asking about their health and directing the patient to the most effective care setting;
  • In AI-assisted robotic surgery, robots can analyze data to physically guide the surgeon’s instruments during a procedure. It can also use data from actual surgical experiences to guide new surgical techniques, resulting in fewer complications and errors, and creating savings.

HBR also spells out potential growth in AI apps. Since AI has proven to reduce errors in health care, insurers are already experimenting with AI-supported data mining to crack down on fraud claims.

The health care industry is catching up with the artificial intelligence revolution, but we must remind ourselves of the limitations of technology. Utilizing AI to do the “donkey work” allows physicians to focus on what they do best: deliver health care to their patients. Artificial intelligence could never truly develop the humanity we share in helping patients heal. The next dilemma is whether it can be faked.


This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. The opinions stated by the authors are made in a personal capacity and do not necessarily reflect those of the Canadian Medical Association and its subsidiaries including Joule.  Feel passionate about physician-led innovation? Please connect with us at