It’s hard not to think we are actually living in the future. When you think about the advancements in technology, the advancements in communication, and how our quality of life has improved, it is astounding how far we have come since the days of those early Windows and Macintosh days of personal computing. But even in the world of science fiction with starships, alien life forms, and transporters, one constant remains: the personal, human touch. What do I mean? Regardless if you are on the Enterprise or in orbit on Babylon Five, you have human interaction amidst the futuristic technology and A.I. You have pilots in the shuttlecraft and starfighters. You have foremen and dockhands moving and storing valuable interstellar cargo. And, in case of a bad cold, sprained ankle, or a missing limb, you have a doctor. Human. Alpha-Centaurian. Betazoid. Whatever the planet of lineage, you have that tactile contact with a person. So it is nice to know that while we are jumping back and forth from star system to star system, we can remain confident that the need for a personal touch is still called for.
We are talking about science fiction though, and we are in this world. In this real-life twenty-first century, we are looking at Artificial Intelligence and how it can make trips to the doctor’s office more efficient.
You see, when a doctor looks at your symptoms, he’s not only checking previous visits on his computer, but he or she is thinking back through a personal database to try to relate what is slowing you down and what symptoms might translate to a root cause. As a physician, if you had a database containing all the symptoms of the entire world and every disease diagnosed, you would used that global database. A lot.
However, current applications for Artificial Intelligence include all kinds of tools that are going to revolutionize medicine, mental health, and physical therapy, and it begins with building a solid, reliable database. The data we collect with AI will empower people to take control of their own mental and physical health, ushering in advancements in machine-learning that can and should replace traditional treatment methods.
Note I said replace “traditional treatment methods” not doctors. I don’t think doctors by any stretch are going to be replaced. That would not only be ridiculous, it would be dangerous. As helpful as WebMD is, the amount of misdiagnoses from the well-intended website would be too many to count in a lifetime. Front-end diagnosis is going to be replaced by AI, a Doctor-Bot, if you will. A Doctor-Bot could take a look at you, and surmise based on a series of queries what is wrong. Actual doctors will continue to work on the critical cases that require physical contact, prescribe medicine, and that sort of thing. This kind of innovation will dramatically make healthcare available to more people at a lower cost.
Now this may sound like a foothold for our robotic overlords, but this is already happening. Researchers have been using AI to diagnose PTSD in veterans based on responses to specific questions. This is becoming a thing sooner rather than later.
So get ready to see your Doctor-bot in the doctor’s office.
A research physicist who has become an entrepreneur and educational leader, and an expert on competency-based education, critical thinking in the classroom, curriculum development, and education management, Dr. Richard Shurtz is the president and chief executive officer of Stratford University. He has published over 30 technical publications, holds 15 patents, and is host of the weekly radio show, Tech Talk. A noted expert on competency-based education, Dr. Shurtz has conducted numerous workshops and seminars for educators in Jamaica, Egypt, India, and China, and has established academic partnerships in China, India, Sri Lanka, Kurdistan, Malaysia, and Canada.