18 July 2023
In this article, Clive Makombera, partner and healthcare specialist, examines the growing role of artificial intelligence (AI) in the healthcare sector, focusing on how chatbots may impact future healthcare delivery.
The topic of artificial intelligence (AI) is currently being hotly debated. There are a number of AI chatbots which are called Large Language Models (LLMs) of which ChatGPT is the most well-known. ChatGPT has the potential to be used in healthcare to enhance patient care and provide real-time insights into a patient's health status as it can generate human-like responses to a wide range of queries, making it an ideal tool for healthcare applications. From personalised treatment plans to remote patient monitoring, ChatGPT is transforming the way healthcare providers deliver care to their patients.
Let’s explore a few different uses of ChatGPT in the healthcare sector and discuss the benefits that this revolutionary technology offers to patients, doctors, researchers and health care providers.
Medication management: ChatGPT can be used to help patients manage their medications, including reminders, dosage instructions, and potential side effects.
Patient triage: ChatGPT can be used to triage patients by asking them questions about their symptoms and medical history to determine the urgency and severity of their condition.
Mental health support: ChatGPT can be used to provide behavioural health support to patients, including screening for mental health conditions, offering coping strategies, and connecting patients with resources for further support.
Virtual assistants for telemedicine: ChatGPT can be used to develop a virtual assistant to help patients schedule appointments, receive treatment, and manage their health information.
Clinical decision support: ChatGPT can provide real-time, evidence-based recommendations to healthcare providers to improve patient outcomes. By providing quick and reliable support, it can help clinicians save time, reduce errors, and improve patient care.
Clinical notes and discharge summaries: ChatGPT can be used to help healthcare professionals write and document medical reports, such as clinical notes. It can also be used to generate automated discharge summaries of patient interactions and medical histories, which can help streamline the medical recordkeeping process.
Medical translation: ChatGPT can be used to provide real-time translation services to facilitate communication between patients and healthcare providers.
ResearchersScientific Research: It is possible that researchers could start to use it to help design new experiments, conduct peer reviews of articles and collaborate on bids, all of which can accelerate the process of scientific discovery and the translation of research findings into practice.
Trend analysis: ChatGPT can detect patterns and anomalies that may indicate the emergence of a new disease or pathogens. The model can also provide automated alerts to public health officials, healthcare providers, and the general public, empowering them to take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of disease.
Virtual wards and remote patient monitoring: Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is an increasingly popular way to improve patient outcomes while reducing healthcare costs. Virtual wards and remote rehabilitation and physical therapy are other areas that could be facilitated by ChatGPT. Clinicians could use virtual reality exercises to improve care delivery, care coordination from the comfort of the patient’s home. This could be particularly useful for individuals with mobility issues that make it difficult for them to travel to a healthcare facility. Virtual wards are becoming common place in many parts of the country, for example, supporting people with frailty or acute respiratory infections. The NHS is introducing more virtual wards to support people at the place they call home, including care homes.
However, as an AI language model, ChatGPT is not perfect, and the prospect of disinformation being spread by chatbots is one of the many risks we must contend with. ChatGPT was only ‘trained’ to September 2021, so its knowledge is limited. AI experts are aware that chatbots can ‘hallucinate’ when asked a rare question. Given the standards of evidence in medicine will have to be the highest, this remains something of a risk.
Another big risk is the security of patient data. In May 2021 it became known that a data breach had occurred at the Health Service Executive in Ireland. The scale of the breach was unclear at the start, but it has since become evident that the personal details of thousands of service users of the HSE had been extracted. The entire Irish Heath System was disrupted. As the world grows increasingly reliant on technology, greater attention must be paid to patient data privacy and the increasing cyber security risk where patient data commands a premium. Healthcare is one of the most affected industries by data security breaches, and the cost of this data is among the most expensive in the world. To increase the adoption of this type of technology, developers should explore how to keep healthcare data private and safe and to reduce the risk of disinformation being spread by chatbots.
Interoperability is a critical component of today’s healthcare infrastructure. ChatGPT might have unintended consequences which could make sharing data between platforms and networks and having one version of the truth more cumbersome than it already is. If the healthcare industry does not advance data and communication standards, adoption of the ChatGPT will be delayed and may even have detrimental consequences.
More investment is needed
To enable the full potential of ChatGPT, the capital investment required for the acquisition of new equipment, sensors high-end connection such as 5G and other wearables capable of reading patients’ vital signs is currently extremely high and the return on investment is perhaps not yet fully quantified or understood. ChatGPT has the potential to be a significant technological gamechanger for healthcare. But it is not the only option available. Competitors include LLAMA (from Meta) and Bard (from Google). In fact, a beta version of a ChatGPT tool called DocsGPT has just launched, which allows doctors to automate administrative tasks such as the drafting of medical letters to insurance companies, using an AI-based writing assistant. In addition, the synergies of combining virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies to function in virtual spaces presents a potential disruptive shift in healthcare, including better surgical precision, therapeutic utilisation, patient care, healthcare training and more.
This article was produced in collaboration with Dr Rachel Iredale, consulting director with RSM Ireland, and our global healthcare specialists.
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If you would like to discuss the potential impact of AI on your healthcare business, please contact Clive Makombera.