Will Machines provide Neurological care?

Should machines become the new doctors in America? At the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, doctors discussed the possibility of artificial intelligence taking over patients’ neurological care.

Neurological care and the doctor’s touch

While it seems like a scene out of a futuristic movie, the future is here, barreling into our world faster than most people are ready to admit.

At the AAN event, there was a heated meeting about whether or not AI should replace human physicians. Some of the ideas put on the table were artificial intelligence and deep learning machines to provide services for patients. The participants at the session were overwhelmingly against the idea that machines could take over for neurologists. “Empathy and compassion are critical to what we do and are indispensable elements of neurological care, cannot be replicated by artificial intelligence,” said The University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Joseph R. Berger.

Why should AI take over?

Dr. David E. Newman-Toker of Johns Hopkins University took a different approach, arguing that we should embrace artificial intelligence as the next wave in best medicine.

There are already robotics in some areas of medicine, most notable surgery. Robotic surgery has its naysayers, but it can provide pinpoint accuracy, and it’s been used successfully already for many years. Many deep-learning diagnostic systems can make accurate predictions, and computer programs are taking over radiology. Is neurology the next step?

Doctors vote to keep them human

A vote took place after the sparring speeches at the AAN session, and machine medicine was voted down 65% to 35%. Neurologists, at least, don’t want to replaced by robots and want to continue to provide excellent neurological care to their patients.

Dr. Berger explained that neurology requires some art, not just science, so it can’t ever be completely replaced by AI. Disciplines that are purely scientific might have computers edge their way in much more quickly. Neurologists need to tease out information from patients, carefully assessing how they answer each question in addition to listening to the answers to make a proper diagnosis, something purely human – at least for now. He also emphasized that human neurologists don’t costs so much in the overall picture of American medicine, while the development of machines to take over would be an astronomical costs.

He did, however, agree that AI has its place in neurology and can help the doctors give better neurological care though impeding errors and giving doctors more time to spend with patients.

Dr. Newman-Toker gave the other side, saying “There have been real advances in the use of technology and learning networks letting machines think at a higher level, systems that are mimicking the human brain in many respects.” he explained some of the benefits of AI in medicine, such as detecting malignant tumors and digitizing examinations with software that can recognize and process visual patterns. He added, “Access to quality health care is unfairly distributed around the world and even in America there is very limited access to neurologists in so-called neurology deserts. Improving diagnosis is also a public health imperative.” He explained that about 9% of stroke are missed at first, accounting for around 100,000 cases annually. There are also high missed rates of encephalitis, meningitis and spinal abscesses, which are more likely to go undetected in areas without neurologists, but would be detected with computers.

At Sinai Post Acute Care Rehabilitation Center, we provide excellent neurological care for our patients, with expert doctors and warm, caring, and available staff.