A recent study published in the journal Jama Internal Medicine found that patients rate the responses of ChatGPT — a computer program designed to simulate online conversations with humans — as more empathetic and of higher quality than those of doctors. According to an article published on Standard, in the study, a team of licensed healthcare professionals were asked to rate responses from doctors as well as ChatGPT; they found that the proportion of responses rated as “empathetic” or “very empathetic” was higher for ChatGPT than for physicians and that the chatbot appeared to score higher than doctors on the quality of responses to patients.
The researchers suggest that further studies are needed to evaluate whether AI chatbots such as ChatGPT can be used in clinical settings to help reduce burnout in doctors and other healthcare professionals. One potential use for the technology could be, for example, to have the chatbot draft responses that physicians could then edit, and randomized trials could assess whether using AI assistants might improve responses, lower clinician burnout, and also improve patient outcomes.
Still, experts caution that chatbots cannot replace the human relationship and caregiving that is a vital part of the healthcare process — patients may feel more comfortable receiving medical advice from a chatbot, but for many patients, the human touch is an important aspect of care. A human doctor is able to adjust their language, manner, and approach in response to social cues and interactions, whereas a chatbot will produce more generic language without awareness of social contexts. Overall, while the study suggests that chatbots such as ChatGPT may have potential in clinical settings, further research is needed to fully understand their impact on patient outcomes and the healthcare profession.