As science surges ahead, many question whether the artistry of medicine is a forgotten practice. This is an exciting time, redefining the limits of human dexterity. The speed of scientific advancement, with the faster introduction of medical innovation, continues to challenge posing questions around the role of clinicians.
The potential of AI to revolutionise medicine appears vast, with two obvious potential advantages to human performance. Firstly, AI can learn and process big data more efficiently than clinicians. It can digest, extract and aid clinicians in making informed decisions. Moreover, AI can perform predefined tasks with a higher degree of precision, without the limitations of fatigue or compromised performance. Some forecast it replacing 80% of what doctors do.
The current pandemic has focused minds on how to deliver healthcare with reduced face-to-face interactions. A new reality is possible where a patient can complete a full pathway with almost no face-to-face interaction: virtual clinics with algorithms aiding diagnosis for robotic assisted surgery, and rehabilitation in a virtual physiotherapist clinic. 3D motion-capture technology, a game-like interface with an avatar, can progress through exercises and education both pre- and post-procedure.
Patient progress can be monitored with live feeds; surgery can be planned using 3D images or printed models; large amounts of data collated and used to design patient-specific prosthesis, reducing surplus equipment in theatre. We have already moved away from computer assisted prosthesis placement to robot-assisted cuts, and are only a step away to full robotic surgery. Medical records, treatment plan designs, image-based diagnosis - connected healthcare systems are also areas to benefit from AI. Then what role, if any, does the clinician hold?
I believe AI should co-exist, freeing-up surgeons to practise the art of medicine.