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AI Chatbots In Healthcare: How To Ensure Their Safe And Ethical Application

AI Chatbots In Healthcare: How To Ensure Their Safe And Ethical Application
They can identify people by monitoring, screening, and analyzing demographic, genetic, and lifestyle data.

AI chatbots can enhance both patient and doctor experience, but they can also pose certain risks such as severe privacy violations.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : July 7, 2023 2:25 PM IST

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become an essential part in every area of our lives. Today, one of the fastest-growing technologies in the world is AI chatbots. The usage of AI chatbots has increased drastically in the past few years, especially in customer service companies. Education, real estate, travel, healthcare, and finance are reported to be the top 5 industries that use chatbots. Chatbots are expected to become the primary customer support channel by 2027 for a quarter of all companies, according to Gartner.

Even clinics and hospitals are introducing this technology into their customer support services. AI-powered medical chatbots are indeed revolutionizing the healthcare sector. Appointment scheduling, pre-screening, symptom checking, providing basic information to patients, collecting necessary patient data: chatbots can be used in healthcare for diverse purposes to enhance both patient and doctor experience. Many experts opine that the use of AI chatbots in healthcare can help reduce the administrative burden on healthcare staff and help address the shortage of healthcare workers. But there are a few disadvantages and potential risks of using chatbots.

Mayank Makkar, Founder and CEO at Rivi, an AI and technology consulting company, elaborates on pros and cons of medical chatbots, as well as how to ensure safe and ethical application this technology in healthcare.

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Advantages of using AI chatbots in healthcare

The capacity of AI chatbots to democratize health and wellness is undeniable. AI chatbots like Woebot have shown how intelligent, empathetic conversation can offer real-time guidance, essential in our connected world.

AI chatbots offer these key benefits:

  1. Democratizing healthcare: They can help reshape support structures, making healthcare more inclusive by transcending geographical, temporal, and socio-economic boundaries.
  2. Personalization: With the ability to adapt and learn from user interactions, AI chatbots offer tailored wellness guidance, optimizing effectiveness.
  3. 24/7 availability: AI chatbots offer round-the-clock assistance, a crucial aspect in mental health emergencies, overcoming traditional healthcare's time-bound limitations.

Disadvantages of using AI chatbots in healthcare

The impact of AI chatbots is significant yet designating them as medical devices invites thoughtful deliberation. Medical devices typically have a tangible presence and perform a clear medical function. Applying this definition to AI chatbots raises issues of data security, privacy, and decision-making transparency. While they enhance our therapeutic capabilities, they aren't replacements for the necessity of human judgement in nuanced therapeutic scenarios.

At Rivi, we've employed AI in our client's happiness companion apps and have seen how it can improve emotional well-being. But it's clear that this potential should be carefully weighed against their inherent complexities. Thus, we see a future where AI chatbots do fall under the medical device umbrella, but only with a robust regulatory framework ensuring their safe and responsible use.

How to ensure safe and ethical application of LLMs in healthcare

As Large language models (LLMs) continue to evolve, they offer remarkable benefits while presenting certain challenges.

Pros:

  1. 24/7 Availability: These LLMs are always at hand to provide prompt responses. MedPaLM, for instance, can give instant medical advice, a vital resource during a mental health crisis.
  2. Personalization: With learning capabilities, LLMs can deliver progressively relevant advice. Continuous interaction with ChatGPT can result in highly personalized mental health support.
  3. Cost Reduction: Automating routine inquiries with LLMs could significantly decrease healthcare costs, making services more affordable.
  4. Anonymity: LLMs facilitate anonymous interaction, helping to diminish the stigma surrounding mental health support seeking.

Cons:

  1. Data Privacy: Given that LLMs handle sensitive medical data, stringent security measures are crucial. Any breach can lead to severe privacy violations.
  2. Depersonalization: Despite advancements in AI, the human element of empathy remains unmatched, which may lead to depersonalized care.
  3. Replacement of Human Judgment: Even with their therapeutic capabilities, LLMs cannot replace the critical necessity of human judgment in complex therapeutic scenarios.
  4. Regulatory Challenges: The rapidly evolving nature of LLM technology necessitates comprehensive and dynamic regulations for ensuring their safe and ethical application.

"Given these considerations, the cautious and thoughtful deployment of LLMs in healthcare is crucial," Mayank concluded.