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Is ChatGPT Healthcare’s Autopilot?

Since its launch in November, ChatGPT has accomplished several impressive feats, including passing graduate-level exams for business, law, and medical school (the answers to which can’t simply be found online). This type of technological innovation has the potential to transform the healthcare industry and the patient-provider relationship as we know it.

While still in the early stages of development, this type of technology would be capable of automating daily tasks, such as generating reports, and ultimately could feature diagnostic and treatment use in the future. As promising as it is, ChatGPT faces numerous hurdles to widespread adoption in healthcare.

The healthcare industry is continuing to transform and adapt, driven in part by new technologies and innovations, including artificial intelligence (AI). Aside from automating administrative tasks that eat up valuable physician time, AI has the potential to use algorithms to improve patient education throughout their treatment journey and swiftly answer common questions about diagnosing or managing their conditions, rather than having to wait for clinicians to call them back.

AI-powered chatbots are designed to provide instant, accurate information and support to patients. As AI becomes more sophisticated, these systems have the potential to become more trustworthy, further transforming the healthcare experience as we know it.

Improving healthcare accessibility with technology

One of the significant challenges in healthcare is ensuring patients have access to information about their health and healthcare options. Patients often feel overwhelmed by the amount of information available and may struggle to find the information they need to make informed decisions about their health. ChatGPT can provide answers in real-time, without needing a human healthcare provider to be present.

To date, known uses of chatbots like ChatGPT during the pandemic were mainly in population surveillance, case identification, contact tracing, disease management, and general public communication. Furthering chatbot capabilities in healthcare and automating routine tasks with ChatGPT frees up medical staff to focus on more complex tasks, improving overall efficiency and effectiveness.

At a time when physicians are overwhelmed by in-person patient volumes and healthcare facilities are struggling to maintain adequate staff, AI has the potential to work in tandem with healthcare professionals to improve how we practise and receive medical care. While human empathy will never be replaced, AI technologies and ChatGPT are providing new options to help healthcare providers engage more efficiently with their patients and streamline administrative duties so physicians can focus more on their patients.

By engaging with patients in real-time, chatbots have proven to improve patient engagement, enhance the patient experience, and increase patient satisfaction. Chatbots can provide information, answer questions, and interact in a natural, conversational way, which is convenient for patients looking for guidance outside of scheduled provider appointments. In fact, approximately 88% of studies have shown to have a positive impact on patient behaviour, and 82% reported high levels of improvement in patient engagement, all because of IT platforms.

ChatGPT can also help providers communicate complex medical information in a way that is easily understood. Personalisation is critical when it comes to healthcare and medical guidance, and chatbots are able to rapidly provide feedback based on previous answers provided to the same patient, personalising responses to individual patient needs.

Despite their ease of use and scalability, Chatbots, like ChatGPT, raise concerns, particularly around data privacy and cyber security, bias due to limited user representation, and the risks of misinformation and safety. While the technology offers exciting new opportunities, there are also risks associated with adopting technology like ChatGPT into the healthcare system that must be assessed, as well as the ethical and legal implications to be considered.

Healthcare risks associated with ChatGPT/AI technologies

Accessing online resources unguided can potentially be harmful to patients. Although chatbots have bridged gaps in access to information, especially during the pandemic when healthcare saw a spike in digitisation, if the information is not high enough quality, this can be troublesome.

Chatbots have the potential to provide contradictory information across different bots, such as differences between national or local guidelines, so despite having access to numerous online resources, the information needs to be navigated accurately. There is a critical need for solid infrastructure, guidance, and representative user groups and engagement when it comes to developing these chatbots.

While the information in these chatbots can be updated daily, fact-checking this information while the chatbot is being deployed remains challenging, requiring multidisciplinary teams to work together to ensure accuracy and consistency. As a result, regulation is key for implementing these technologies. With the high influx of health-related issues and the need for digital resources, many chatbots have been implemented without tracking the chatbot’s overall ability and performance.

In order to use their value and cost-effectiveness as new tools, chatbots will require more research before we can even begin to approach widespread adoption. To date, most evaluations on chatbots are typically self-reported user feedback, which is helpful for understanding user experiences for outcomes, but less so for objective health outcomes.

Regulating the development and approval of chatbots could ensure that chatbots are evaluated optimally in advancing health systems and public health goals, while promoting human welfare and security. Privacy legislation is crucial across many public health areas, especially those connected to patient identity. In some contexts, there is a significant stigma associated with certain diseases, such as HIV, or behaviours, such as tobacco use by women.

Addressing privacy issues when implementing chatbots in the health system should be considered a primary concern, but it can create challenges for evaluation. In some cases, there is also user hesitancy around sharing personal data with a service. There’s not only a problem of perception, chatbots can have users linked to third-party services, which often share their data without a user’s knowledge or consent. Equitable access for those without internet or the financial ability to purchase technology is also a concern as we work towards creating better equitable access to healthcare in general.

Are digital health systems the future?

When designing chatbots for healthcare, managing risk and ethical considerations need to be considered in their design. Chatbots, like ChatGPT, when designed for healthcare can assist providers in better enhancing patient engagement — in essence, being an autopilot for healthcare. However, successful chatbots beyond engaging patients in the healthcare system and reducing unnecessary waste should be able to truly impact patients’ lived experiences of their conditions and achieve better health outcomes. Education plays a critical role, both for the patient and provider, in preparing future healthcare providers for the integration of ChatGPT and other AI technologies into healthcare.

Chatbots have the potential to streamline certain tasks and workloads that eat up valuable time, but it’s important to consider the potential impact this type of technology can have on the entire healthcare system. With the right approach, this type of technology can work in tandem with traditional healthcare and have the potential to revolutionise the way we approach healthcare and improve global health outcomes.


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This article was written by Erlyn Macarayan from MedCity News and was legally licenced through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licencing questions to