The US and UK healthcare systems need help, lots of help. The NHS England spends roughly £180 million every 15 hours, costing the taxpayer every minute. And if that is not enough one in ten nursing posts are vacant, with one in three nurses over 50 retiring soon. Around 11% of nursing posts in England were vacant as of December 2016 (it was only 6% in 2013).
If I would be a patient, I would be calling my AI for help. Even with simple capabilities AI could save so much time and help the nurses, the NHS.
Some of the things which even simple chatbots could do:
1. Capturing symptoms
2. Organizing a GP visit (date/time)
3. Instructions/leaflet on medication, side effects (linked to medical file, pointing out dangers), when is the best time, with food etc
4. Recommended actions once diagnosis is complete / medication
5. IoT – capture hospital bed sensors, retrieved by a chat bot.
6. First aid instructions
But chatbots should not be confused with AI, especially in public health. Also, AI is still too inexperienced to provide expert advice – and to identify a situation which requires “expert advice” is difficult. The dangers of an inexperienced AI to interpret human information wrongly could be devastating/deadly.
To point 1, considering that capturing symptoms take up 80% of a conversation with your doctor/GP, this would save a lot of time.
Points 4&6 could potentially be fatal, but with regards to first aid, if there is no-one else, it is probably better than doing nothing.
Will 2017 be the year when AI goes mainstream?
AI, no. Chat bots yes, they have gone mainstream already. A real AI will probably be another 15 to 20 years. One which specializes in just 1 area of medicine probably much sooner than that. But sharing of data (between hospitals and countries) will be essential to AI learning from experience (and mistakes).
What does the ubiquity of chatbots mean for the public healthcare industry?
No regulation could potentially pose dangers to the public. If everyone publishes their "patched together" chat bot as an expert that is very risky.
How will it affect public healthcare if "administered"?
A lot of the reasons why we currently have such a high death rate in public health services, is because mistakes just get brushed under the carpet and doctors don’t communicate their mistakes to other doctors. Even if the data is anonymized it would be essential for AI programs to work and learn from. The same way as it has worked for pilots in the aviation industry. A book from which healthcare could learn from:
Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes - But Some Do
Chat bots will come and help the healthcare services, but more lives will be saved with AI. It has been 50 years since the Beatles published "With a little help from my friends" in June 1967, and imagine how much help we are going to get from our little AI friends over the next 50 years.