How will artificial intelligence (AI) change medicine?
AI, powered by “big data” in health, promises to transform medical practice, but specifics remain inchoate. Reports that AI performs certain tasks at the level of specialists stoke worries that AI will “replace” physicians. These worries are probably overblown; AI is unlikely to replace many physicians in the foreseeable future. A more productive set of questions considers how AI and physicians should interact, including how AI can improve the care physicians deliver, how AI can best enable physicians to focus on the patient relationship, and how physicians should review the recommendations and predictions of AI. Answering those questions requires clarity about the larger function of AI: not just what tasks AI can do or how it can do them, but what role it will play in the context of physicians, other patients, and providers within the overall medical system.
Medical AI can improve care for patients and improve the practice of medicine for providers—as long as its development is supported by an understanding of what role it can and should play.
Four different roles each have the possibility to be transformative for providers and patients: AI can push the frontiers of medicine; it can replicate and democratize medical expertise; it can automate medical drudgery; and it can allocate medical resources.