Is AI the Future of Medical Assistant Jobs?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly gaining momentum across many industries. In the health sector, its impact is set to fundamentally change medicine, from drug research and development to patient care.
With technology becoming a part of everyday life – and the healthcare industry adopting more of the latest developments – AI has become a topic of discussion, especially among medical assistants.
First, What Does a Medical Assistant Do?
A medical assistant (or MA) is often considered a physician’s right hand. These allied health professionals assist in almost all aspects of patient care. Typically, medical assistants are trained in both clinical and administrative responsibilities.
Most clinical responsibilities are quite standard, such as drawing blood, checking vital signs, and providing general patient care. Depending on the workplace setting, MAs can also assist with other tasks, including giving injections and vaccinations, as well as performing electrocardiograms (EKG).
Common administrative duties of a medical assistant include scheduling appointments, communicating clinical information to patients, and processing medical paperwork.
What Is Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a set of computer systems designed to simulate human cognitive functions. These functions can range from simple pattern recognition to more complex problem solving and reasoning. AI can be implemented via robots (as often seen in movies) but it’s more likely that it will appear via a smart device, such as a smartphone.
Machine learning is a common and vital part of AI. These algorithms allow computers to learn independently, and this technology has proven extremely useful in making sense of large amounts of data and identifying patterns (especially those that would otherwise be missed by humans). For medical professionals, machine learning can also help automate certain processes such as recognizing and correcting errors in medical coding.
How Does Artificial Intelligence Affect Health Workers?
In healthcare, AI generally refers to complex algorithms that perform certain tasks in automated ways. Such tasks may include reviewing, interpreting, and offering solutions to medical problems. In turn, this helps doctors and medical assistants make better decisions and manage patient data more efficiently.
Other applications of AI in the medical field include virtual assistants, early disease detection, medical diagnostics, robot-assisted surgeries, new drug research, and clinical trials.
Virtual assistants (VAs) are perhaps the most recognized application of AI. VAs such as Siri and Alexa are becoming increasingly popular in our daily life, retrieving information and performing simple tasks such as playing music and making calls.
A virtual assistant, however, can also be designed to carry out specialized functions. VAs can help medical professionals by taking over the routine tasks and enabling them to focus on the patients.
Virtual Medical Assistants Growing in Popularity
The healthcare industry is a growing area for the integration of AI-driven virtual assistants, designed to operate in response to text or voice interactions. While it may sound concerning to human medical assistants, their virtual “colleagues” are primarily designed to assist medical record navigation and transcription, as well as help patients search for medical information.
Nuance’s Dragon Medical Virtual Assistant is designed to automate high-value clinical tasks by using voice recognition. The virtual assistant integrates into the Electronic Health Records (EHRs) that healthcare professionals already use. Clinicians can navigate patients’ EHRs by using voice commands on their preferred device. They can also perform tasks such as scheduling appointments, prescribing medications, finding lab results, and adding medical notes into a patient’s file.
Similarly, Suki uses artificial intelligence to assist physicians in managing medical documentation. This virtual assistant is said to improve the accuracy of the data it captures, as well as condense a doctor-patient conversation into an actionable plan.
MedWhat is a virtual assistant that uses machine learning to instantly answer medical and health-related questions from both physicians and patients.
The Benefits of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare
Artificial intelligence is undoubtedly having an impact on the medical industry. In fact, by 2025, AI applications in healthcare are projected to represent a $34 billion market.
From reducing misdiagnosis to advancing medicine to delivering better patient care, AI promises to revolutionize a wide range of areas within the health sector. Let's have a look at some of the current benefits of using AI in healthcare.
Early Detection and Diagnostics
Although the idea of AI may still seem a little abstract, it’s already being used to detect certain diseases more precisely. In oncology, for instance, artificial intelligence is already able to interpret mammograms 30 times faster – and with 99% accuracy. This significantly reduces the need for unnecessary biopsies and ensures more accurate results.
Implementing AI models in mammograms can also detect smaller nodules that are often the first signs of lung cancer (but sometimes missed by radiologists).
What’s more, combining AI with wearable medical devices can help detect heart diseases in their early stages. Doctors are more readily able to monitor and identify potentially dangerous episodes.
Robots have been a part of medicine for years. These range from simple lab robots used for repetitive tasks to high-tech machines that can assist human surgeons (or even perform surgeries independently).
Robots are also widely used in physical therapy to aid patients with impaired physical mobility recover motor function and enhance muscle strength.
Modern advancements in robotics, humanoid design, and artificial intelligence give robots the potential to revolutionize patient care by interacting and communicating with humans. This could reduce loneliness and increase independence, especially in elderly patients battling conditions such as osteoporosis and dementia.
Drug Research and Discovery
Did you know that it takes approximately 12 years for a drug to travel from the research lab to the patient? Implementing AI-driven technologies can substantially streamline the process, cutting time and study costs.
Many drug companies already use artificial intelligence to identify potential treatments. In the field of cancer research, for example, AI technology is used to generate and analyze data from patients. This helps researchers highlight the major differences between cancerous and healthy cells and establish treatment based on the exact biological cause of the disease.
Barriers to Implementing AI in Healthcare
AI and technological advancements are rapidly changing the health sector, but there are some serious drawbacks. The use of artificial intelligence in medicine is continuously sparking debates concerning patient safety, medical errors, privacy, and ethics.
Other cons of using AI in healthcare include:
- At the time of publishing, AI doesn’t have the ability to consider false-positive or false-negative results.
- AI requires high capital investment. To build and repair this technology, costs can be extremely high.
- It could possibly lead to an increase in unemployment.
- AI can impact human interaction with patients.
- The morals/ethics of recreating intelligence (or having human-like robots) is questioned by many.