Texas Children’s doctor says artificial intelligence requires physicians to redefine their role in medical care

Doctor's need to stop thinking of themselves as "victims of the machine," and decide which parts of their job are better left to computers.

To coexist with machines, one physician says doctors will need to delegate parts of their job to algorithms that are better equipped to support patient care.

Arguing that physicians are headed to “evolution, not extinction,” Bryan Vartabedian, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and an attending physician at Texas Children’s Hospital, said physicians need to redefine themselves not as “victims of the machine,” but participants in reshaping the future of medical care.

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“This redefinition is an important exercise for practicing physicians,” he wrote in an op-ed for Stat. “It’s even more important for how we train the next generation. What will a doctor need to know or be able to do 20 years from now?”

Part of that is understanding which tasks are better suited for new technology like artificial intelligence and machine learning. And humans will ultimately take on the task of providing context to large swaths of health data.

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It marks the second time in the last month that physicians and researchers have touched on the future of medical education. Recently, Harvard researchers called medical education “absurdly outdated” and “ill-prepared” to meet a new emphasis on data science.

Many within the industry have acknowledged that the ways AI can assist doctors rather than replace them. But Vartabedian also noted that some physicians are resistant to change who see medicine as “uniquely human," a dynamic the industry will continue to navigate as new technology takes on a bigger role in medicine. 

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