When Siri Goes to Med School: The Implications of AI for Bedside Manners
Modern medicine has made some amazing strides in recent decades. But our modern healthcare system is a right old mess. We have issues regarding basic access, increasing costs, and of course, the political pinata that is universal coverage. Lost amidst all this din are smaller, yet still important aspects of healthcare like bedside manners for instance.
Anybody who has had the misfortune of being treated by a cranky doc knows the importance of bedside manners in a medical setting (unless that doc is a certain House MD!). We all need a friendly, empathetic and caring face when we are sick. But with rising workloads and increasing stress, it becomes harder for medical staff to deliver the TLC that patients need most.
And it is not just about making a patient feel better. Empathy can actually help them get better faster. Numerous clinical studies have proven this to be true, in conditions as simple and common as a common cold, or something serious and chronic like diabetes.
The rise of AI in the healthcare industry will probably have a two-fold effect on bedside manners.
On the one hand, by taking a chunk of workload off the shoulders of humans, it should help make it easier for doctors and nurses to handle their patients more positively. There are several ways this can happen:
- Through the use of virtual nurses like Sensely’s Molly and Catalia Health’s Mabu to interact with and keep an eye on patients
- Improved diagnosis of serious diseases and effective prevention through deep-learning AI and predictive analysis
- Reduce paperwork and save time for medical staff through automation of admin tasks
AI nurses and monitoring software will become critical in an era when the population of the elderly are increasing. In the US alone, the number of humans above the age of 65 is expected to double in the next 40 years. AI can reduce the impact this demographic will have on the healthcare system.
While AI can potentially make it easier for doctors and nurses to provide more empathetic care, it will also increase the pressure on them to improve their bedside manners. When patients get used to the friendly conversational skills of future chatbots, they will undeniably start to expect the same level of experience from humans as well.
With machines handling repetitive tasks like admin and analysis, the onus will be on doctors to focus on the so-called “human element”. Using superior bedside manners, a human doctor can communicate better with a patient and gather valuable insights, which a computer cannot do at present. In future, successful doctors could very well be the ones with better bedside manners!