So far, the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on many aspects of human life has been profound. AI is enhancing accuracy, personalization, and operational efficiency. In healthcare, AI has been a valuable ally for medical professionals, augmenting capabilities and improving patient outcomes.
AI and Human Work
There has been extensive debate on the impact of AI replacing humans in certain jobs and professions. It is a fact that AI is increasingly outperforming humans in certain tasks, understandably leading to more people losing their jobs in some fields.
It is also clear that this trend may continue, at least in the near future, with more organizations downsizing their workforce as AI becomes more capable in handling more tasks.
This is not just an important topic due to the need for people to work for economic sustenance but for the fact that many people derive their meaning in life from their work and profession, thus raising a wider social stability issue as people lose jobs to AI.
Understanding and addressing the impact of AI on healthcare professionals requires a nuanced exploration of both the challenges and opportunities.
Tasks vs. Jobs
For starters, it is important to note that for many of the tasks that humans do and at times find quite easy, it has been very difficult for AI systems to perform close to humans, and in fact, is far from reaching human-level performance. Even in fields where AI has done well in some tasks, there remain many tasks and aspects of these jobs that currently only humans can do at all.
Yet there has been this common misconception about the ability to perform some tasks that are part of a job being the same as the ability to do the job as a whole, and nothing can be further from the truth. This is primarily due to a misunderstanding about tasks versus jobs.
In the simplest form, a job is usually composed of many individual tasks that collectively form the description of the job. For example, a receptionist is a “job,” and for the job of a receptionist, there are many “tasks” including receiving visitors, answering phone calls, keeping a log of visitors, answering questions, giving directions, taking notes, responding to messages, and so on. An AI system may perform well in some of the tasks but perform very poorly in others.
So, what usually happens is that AI most times becomes really good at performing certain individual tasks that form part of a job. However, there remain many tasks and parts of the job which usually only humans can do or do well.
As a result, the idea of AI taking over jobs simply because of the ability of AI systems to perform some tasks that are included in the job is mostly unfounded.
The same is true in healthcare, and a good example is the job of a radiographer. Currently, there are AI systems that can read scan images extremely well and, in some cases, better than humans. Yet, there are many other tasks that collectively form the job of a radiographer beyond reading scans. And currently, AI systems cannot do many of these tasks, including maintaining the machines, preparing patients, managing and scheduling routines, discussing treatment recommendations with clinicians of other specialties, and so on.
Fixing the AI Phobia
Following on from this understanding is the need to address the reluctance and at times phobia among many clinicians and professionals in healthcare when it comes to adopting AI-enabled systems.
So, AI is not about taking over the job of clinicians and medical professionals. And in many cases, it is not even about full automation of some of the tasks. Rather, most times the opportunity is about “augmenting” the efforts of humans on specific tasks.
For example, AI systems can make recommendations for humans to assess and decide whether to accept or discard the recommendations. For a doctor for instance, the major or iconic task may be seeing a patient, performing surgery, or prescribing therapy. However, there are other tasks like keeping records, writing complaints, summarizing research outcomes, routing patients to the right specialty, etc.
Now some of these seemingly minor tasks of being a doctor can actually have AI systems augmenting the doctor’s efforts to make it easier and faster, so the doctor can free more time to focus on more major tasks.
As we stand on the precipice of AI advancements, it’s essential to candidly acknowledge the genuine concerns surrounding potential job displacement within the healthcare and life sciences sectors. The increasing automation of routine tasks has sparked discussions about the evolving landscape of roles, prompting questions about the future of employment in these critical fields.
As we acknowledge this uncertainty, it’s important to recognize that while AI can automate certain tasks, it cannot replace the complex web of skills, experience, and human judgment that healthcare and life sciences professionals bring to their roles.
Impact on Routine Tasks
Delving deeper, we can identify specific routine tasks in healthcare practice and research that AI is automating. Administrative tasks, data entry, and preliminary analysis are areas where machines can lend their efficiency. However, the emphasis here is not on replacement but on augmentation of efforts.
Professionals are urged to consider these shifts as opportunities to redirect their focus toward higher-order skills that machines cannot replicate. Rather than fearing displacement, professionals are encouraged to see this evolution as a call to elevate their expertise, concentrating on tasks that demand critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and a nuanced understanding of complex healthcare scenarios.
Emphasizing Human-Centric Care
With the ever-increasing use of technology, the value of intrinsic human qualities in healthcare remains paramount. AI may excel in processing vast datasets and identifying patterns, but for the most part, it lacks the irreplaceable human touch that defines compassionate patient care, at least for now. The nuances of empathy, intuition, and a holistic understanding of a patient’s needs remain quintessentially human attributes.
In highlighting the importance of the human touch, healthcare professionals are encouraged to embrace the intersection of technology and empathy. It’s not a competition between human and machine but a collaborative effort where the strengths are complemented and amplified.
At the end of the day, patients benefit from a blend of technological precision and the compassionate care that only a human professional can provide.
Collaboration between AI and Professionals
The future of healthcare lies in the collaboration between AI systems and professionals. While machines can process information swiftly, professionals bring a depth of contextual understanding, ethical judgment, and emotional intelligence to the table. By embracing this collaboration, professionals can leverage AI as a powerful tool to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in healthcare delivery.
Encouraging this synergy requires fostering a culture where professionals actively engage with AI technologies, providing insights, refining algorithmic ideas, and ensuring that the human-centric aspects of care remain at the forefront of every decision.
Adapting to Change; Up-skilling and Lifelong Learning
In a rapidly evolving technological landscape, the imperative for professionals in healthcare and life sciences is clear: engage in continuous learning and up-skilling.
The idea of lifelong learning is not only important, but is a strategic response to the dynamic nature of the medical profession in a technology-driven era.
By mastering some of these new technologies and adapting to evolving best practices, many professionals and health systems have shown resilience and adaptability that define successful professionals in health and biotech.
Rather than viewing AI as a threat, professionals are encouraged to see it as a tool for innovation. AI opens doors to new approaches and solutions that were once unimaginable. By adopting a mindset of innovation, professionals can pioneer groundbreaking strategies in diagnostics, treatment, and research.
In fostering innovation, professionals become architects of change, steering the course of healthcare and life sciences toward new horizons. This proactive approach not only ensures relevance but positions professionals as drivers of positive transformation within their respective fields.
Deciding on AI Applications
Usually, the decision of whether to apply AI to tasks starts with evaluating the technical feasibility and the business value of deploying AI systems to the task.
And even more important is gaining a deeper understanding about whether adopting AI systems can help not only to create substantial value but possibly lead to rethinking the whole business and process workflow, thereby creating new opportunities, and actually growing revenue.
Understanding the Basics of AI and AI Applications
And so, the important realization is that it is necessary for clinicians and medical professionals to better understand the role and application of AI in healthcare. And that AI may not replace a medical professional, but a medical professional using AI system will vastly outperform a medical professional who is not using AI systems.
And the question then is, are you ready to better understand the role and application of AI in your field and for the future of healthcare?
As AI becomes increasingly capable and applied to more tasks in various aspects of healthcare, it is important that we have a basic understanding of AI to better navigate some of these applications as they become available.
The Promise of AI in Healthcare; an Enabler
AI holds the promise of revolutionizing healthcare and life sciences, augmenting the capabilities of professionals rather than replacing them. It serves as a powerful ally, enhancing diagnostic accuracy, treatment personalization, and research efficiency.
On Medneed, we are exploring real-world examples of AI applications that complement the work of medical practitioners and researchers, from diagnostic assistance and personalized treatment plans to accelerated drug discovery and beyond. The aim is to illustrate how AI can be integrated into workflows and ultimately improve patient outcomes and advance healthcare.
In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, AI has emerged as a transformative force, bringing both promises of innovation and transformation and concerns about professional displacement. As we navigate this complex reality, it’s crucial to understand the nuances of AI’s impact on professionals like clinicians and life scientists.
The reality of AI in displacing professionals requires a balanced perspective. While there are valid concerns about job roles evolving, there is also immense potential for collaboration and innovation. Navigating this change entails having a real understanding of jobs and tasks as they relate to AI, embracing lifelong learning, emphasizing the irreplaceable human touch, and viewing AI as a tool to amplify professional capabilities.
As we normally say, the challenges of adopting AI are not too different than the challenges experienced with many earlier technologies like electricity when they were “new”. Usually, the advantages over time are way more than any risks and challenges. And for AI, at the end of the day, it’s really just about hiring “intelligence” at much lower costs.
We will continue to have even more comprehensive exploration of the impact of AI on medical professions, acknowledging both challenges and opportunities in the evolving landscape as developments continue to unfold.