AI not designed to take over decision-making from docs

Human physicians cannot be totally objective.

Their years of training and experience influence them to make decisions based on a degree of preconceived notions, no matter how rigorous or extensive the spectrum of research they depend on (Important to consider various perspectives on weight loss, by Dr Steven Gregory Ang Boon Kiang; July 19).

This is why artificial intelligence (AI) is pushing computing into the realms of medicine.

In fact, automation in terms of algorithms may eventually replace up to 80 per cent of doctors because big data combined with computational strength is more accurate and objective than the human mind.

Doctors are understandably concerned about how far technology has encroached onto their turf.

AI is definitely getting better at making sense of unstructured information.

The current algorithm is accurate enough for engineers to claim that doctors may follow the computer's advice approximately two-thirds of the time.

It is truly objective since it can tap the collective knowledge gathered from hundreds of thousands of medical providers and millions of patients, as well as the treatment plans other doctors gave to patients with similar ailments.

The computer's ability to predict a patient's need for a particular drug may surpass a physician's judgment.

But technology may not be able to tell with absolute certainty the best course of treatment for a patient.

It is not designed to take over decision-making from the doctors.

Computers offer physicians a second option; the doctor must have the final say concerning a patient's treatment or medication.

The computer's cognitive capabilities can assist medical practitioners.

Such systems should be viewed as databanks which enable physicians to arrive at better decisions.

The complex algorithms that scrutinise the data can make optimal use of electronic medical records to deliver clinically relevant information quickly.

Such a web-based repository of information and insight should serve to open up doctors' minds to further research to challenge the available medical knowledge of today.

Edmund Khoo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2017, with the headline 'AI not designed to take over decision-making from docs'. Print Edition | Subscribe