What about using artificial intelligence (AI) to replace an actual in person or video visit with your child’s physician? Would you trust an AI program?

Artificial Intelligence is all the rage lately, and its ability to interact with people is getting better and better. There are good and bad things that go with this. Highschool and college students are more and more cribbing their writing homework using AI and that is getting ever harder to detect. Yet a lot of medical care is pretty protocol driven, whether old coots like me like that or not, and AI is good at implementing protocols. A recent study surveyed people to ask the question if they were OK with AI being used to provide health care advice. The answer was no, but the majority, only 53%, was a surprisingly (to me) slim one. The authors wrote:

“While many patients appear resistant to the use of AI, accuracy of information, nudges and a listening patient experience may help increase acceptance,” Slepian said of the study’s other primary finding: that a human touch can help clinical practices use AI to their advantage and earn patients’ trust. “To ensure that the benefits of AI are secured in clinical practice, future research on best methods of physician incorporation and patient decision making is required.”

Well, maybe. I don’t think parents of my patients would want their child to be diagnosed by a computer. And they certainly want to talk to me at least every day, more frequently than that if their child is sicker. But AI is coming and I suppose it’s best, as the authors wrote, to figure out the best way to use it. I think a real danger is if patients and their families think AI will substitute for actual clinical skill and expertise. If you are interested in this topic, an excellent review assesses how good AI is at interpreting x-ray images. For that, at least, AI seems to do very well.


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