AI In Medicine Series: AI as The Assistant For Every Doctor (Part 2)

In the previous instalment of this series, we delved into the origins of AI, exploring its development and the unparalleled impact of recent advancements like GPT-based LLMs on the AI landscape. Now, let us shift our focus to healthcare, the industry we, as doctors, are deeply invested in. We shall examine how AI is revolutionising this critical sector.

Remember those bulky medical textbooks and endless stacks of patient files?

Imagine an AI that can find the exact information you need within seconds. Add in the ability to draft routine paperwork and pinpoint subtle test results patterns. As doctors, wouldn’t this speed up our workflow significantly? This is just one of the many examples to appreciate the potential of AI in medicine.

Before we go into panic mode by thinking AI will take over our jobs, I invite all of us to reframe our understanding of what AI does. I am convinced AI is not here to take your job. Instead, they are powerful tools to help you work better and more efficiently. The combination of AI and skilled professionals is often better than working without AI.

Let me give some specific examples.

AI as Your Clinical Research Assistant

The ever-expanding ocean of medical knowledge can be daunting.

New studies are published daily, drug guidelines evolve, and keeping pace can feel like a never-ending race. Here is where your AI research assistant comes to the rescue. 

Imagine a scenario where you need a quick update on the latest clinical research for a specific treatment option for lung cancer. You can ask the AI (e.g. ChatGPT) by typing in this instruction: “Summarize recent studies on the use of immunotherapy for advanced lung cancer”. You will get a concise report with key findings in an easy-to-digest format.

Struggling to decipher a complex medical paper on a rare condition? AI can translate the jargon into a clear and accessible summary, allowing you to focus on the practical implications for your patients. 

This information overload is not just about research papers. Keeping track of a patient’s specific medical history, allergies, and medication interactions can be challenging, especially with the often overly-used shorthand notations and jargon that even fellow doctors struggle to understand.

AI can help you analyze a patient’s electronic health record (EHR) and highlight potentially relevant details, saving you valuable time and ensuring you have a comprehensive picture before making treatment decisions. To achieve this, you can try this prompt: “Summarize the patient’s illness, including a detailed description of symptoms, diagnostic procedures conducted, treatments administered and how the patient responded over time.”

AI as Your Clinical Administrative Assistant

Doctors spend a significant portion of their time on administrative tasks, time that could be better spent with patients.

AI can be your secret weapon for reclaiming those lost hours. Imagine dictating your notes during a patient encounter and having AI automatically generate a clear and concise consultation report, ready for your review and edits. It takes the tedious typing out of the equation and allows you to capture your thoughts while still fresh.

Need a basic discharge instruction sheet for a common condition? Delegate that to your AI assistant too. Simply provide the necessary details like diagnosis and medication information, and the AI can generate a draft that you can personalise. This frees you up to focus on more complex cases or spend extra time with patients who need additional explanation.

If you work in patient education, you might need to an endless stream of patient emails with basic questions. Here too, AI can be a lifesaver. Train your AI assistant to handle routine inquiries about medication side effects, appointment scheduling, or post-operative care instructions. It can even answer frequently asked questions and triage more complex concerns directly to you, ensuring that urgent matters get your immediate attention. Just remember to audit the AI output frequently to ensure it sticks to the guidelines and protocols practised in your centre.

AI as The Patient’s Trend Tracker

AI excels at analysing vast amounts of data and identifying subtle connections that might escape even the most experienced doctor.

Imagine a scenario where a patient’s blood test results appear relatively normal at first glance. Your AI assistant, however, highlights a potential concern: a slight elevation in a specific enzyme level, combined with a seemingly unrelated medication the patient is taking.  This could flag a rare drug interaction, allowing you to investigate further and potentially prevent a serious adverse reaction.

The power of AI goes beyond single test results. Over time, your AI assistant can learn to analyse a patient’s entire medical history, identifying trends or patterns that might suggest an emerging health issue.

For instance, it might detect a gradual decline in kidney function based on past lab reports, prompting you to order further tests and intervene early.

This is no different than using AI to analyse data patterns in stock markets, business, road traffic and other similar use cases. We are incorporating the same mechanism in our workflow when managing patients. It is like having an extra set of eyes that never gets tired and can monitor trends over long periods.

AI is a Tool to Empower, Not to Replace

It is crucial to remember that AI, however powerful, should remain as a tool. It augments your expertise, not replaces it.

Think of AI systems as just the latest medical instrument or clinical tool, much like a stethoscope or an advanced imaging system when they were first introduced. It provides valuable insights, but the diagnosis, treatment plan, and ultimately, the patient care decisions remain in your capable hands.

The most successful doctor-AI partnerships will be built on a foundation of trust and understanding.  It is about recognizing the strengths and limitations of this technology and harnessing its potential to elevate the quality of care you provide.

In the next part, we will delve into the practicalities of using AI. We will explore the art of crafting effective prompts (giving clear instructions to your AI) and introduce you to some exciting AI tools that you can integrate into your daily workflow today!


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