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Dhruv Suyamprakasam is CEO and founder of virtual healthcare company iCliniq; its physician panel consists of more than 3,500 doctors from more than 80 specialties in the U.S., UK, UAE, India, Singapore and Germany. He believes ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence models like it are not a threat to healthcare but an enhancement. And he says the benefits are only beginning.

At iCliniq, Suyamprakasam is developing what he calls an “AI as an ally” mindset. The focus is on understanding the true merits and limitations of ChatGPT. He recognizes ChatGPT and other AI applications as productivity enhancers for both virtual care and in-person care providers.

We interviewed Suyamprakasam to discuss his views on AI. He spoke about some of the specific challenges telemedicine faces, and described how ChatGPT and similar LLMs can help overcome them.

Q. What are some of the challenges telemedicine faces where ChatGPT can help out?

A. Currently, the U.S. is facing shortages of physicians, and it is looking as though it will not get better anytime soon. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the U.S. will face shortages of 37,800 to 124,000 physicians across all specialties and subspecialties within the next decade.

With new patient wait-times already skyrocketing, averaging about 26 days in large markets, according to AMN Healthcare, adding a physician shortage will lead to a larger health crisis. This will ultimately contribute to a decrease in the quality of care that a patient can receive and is especially true for patients living in rural areas where there are already accessibility issues.

In addition to the physician shortage, it is becoming burdensome to effectively manage their time. On average, physicians spend over three hours a day on paperwork. After every patient visit, they have to recap and properly document the visit – adding any updates made into a patient’s file or creating new patient files.

This time-consuming process often leaves physicians burnt out, increasing potential for documentation errors or unproofed files.

As physicians continue to spend more time with administrative tasks, they have even less of an opportunity to focus on research. Therefore, advancements such as new prescription research and testing, finding disease cures, and even innovating patient care and experience are slowed down.

Q. You believe strongly that ChatGPT is not a threat to healthcare. Please describe your “AI as an ally” approach and how it relates to clinicians working in telemedicine.

A. I am a firm believer that we should train and use available technological advancements, especially ChatGPT. Many people are scared of the potential power that it may yield. Personally, I see the potential it has to benefit physicians while also fixing the issues that exist within our healthcare system.

AI technology can assist in educating and training medical students by providing them with information and detailed explanations about medical concepts, procedures and management plans, serving as a valuable learning resource for medical students that helps them understand complex topics.

AI technologies also will be able to assist physicians in patient education by explaining medical conditions, treatment plans, medication instructions and possible side effects. Finally, physicians focused on medical research can use AI assistance in reviewing relevant literature and summarizing key findings – extracting information from vast data, making the research more efficient.

It still is important to note that AI is in its infancy, and it should still be reserved for physicians. It has advantages that will make well-educated physicians’ lives and daily tasks easier.

I’ve implemented an “AI as an ally” approach at my company. This mindset allows us to understand the ability of ChatGPT and other AI to enhance our working experience.

Our team views AI as a technology that can help to evolve our business model and client approach. As technology advances, it is always important to acknowledge both the limitations and the merits. In healthcare, professionals must stay up to date on new technology that can be implemented into their practices.

We recognize ChatGPT and other AI technologies as productivity enhancers for healthcare providers, as well as for brick-and-mortar and virtual hospitals that want to use the technology.

It is not our competition, but an ally. In the healthcare industry, we believe there will always be a need for a human-first approach. Physicians still need to be heavily involved in the analysis of AI. However, AI can help relieve some of the administrative tasks and increase overall efficiency leaving physicians with more time to focus on patient care and medical research.

AI can help improve the quality of patient telehealth visits by removing language barriers and different cultural understandings. AI can also provide physicians with appropriate language to deliver news to patients in a way they understand.

In addition, ChatGPT-4 has the ability to help accelerate the creative thinking needed to resolve problems and ultimately benefit the entire healthcare ecosystem in the future. With generative AI enhancements, physicians will likely be able to discover new solutions to health issues that have until now had limited treatments.

If properly implemented and monitored, AI has the potential to lead to better outcomes for patients and contribute to advancing global healthcare.

Q. Looking at those aforementioned telehealth challenges you described, exactly how can ChatGPT help overcome them?

A. AI can be used to fix many challenges within the healthcare system. At the very minimum, AI can be used to help physicians complete administrative tasks efficiently, act as a sounding board for research thoughts and provide decision support.

For administrative tasks, ChatGPT can be integrated into telemedicine platforms to provide initial assessments and triage for patients. AI can ask relevant questions about signs, symptoms, medical history and other relevant details, and then provide recommendations based on the established protocols.

This can help streamline the process and ensure that patients receive appropriate care in a timely manner. It can also help with differential diagnoses, treatment options and guidelines based on the symptoms and relevant information provided.

Additionally, AI can assist with the growing shortage of physicians, especially in rural areas. In places where it may be difficult to receive care, ChatGPT can assist in answering patient’s questions about their conditions, provide resources and information on where to seek in-person care, and even begin the process of pharmaceutical deliveries to a patient’s home.

We are in the beginning phases of implementing AI-related technologies to help bring down our physicians’ response time. We are finding ways in which the necessary upfront administrative work is automatically updated and ready so our skilled team of physicians can simply answer a patient’s medical inquiry in a timely manner.

It’s very important to note that while ChatGPT can provide valuable assistance, it should not replace the expertise and judgment of trained healthcare professionals. It should be used as a tool to assist their expert capabilities and support their decision-making process.

Q. What does the future of AI in telemedicine look like five years down the road?

A. AI is beginning to solidify its place in healthcare technology, and this is something we will continue to see in the years ahead. It is my prediction that digital diagnostics will grow with AI’s assistance as phone cameras become more advanced.

More specifically, as phone cameras get smarter, this will likely have an effect on in-person diagnosis. In-person visits allow healthcare providers to view a patient’s behaviors and get a visual sense of how they are doing. Using AI, photography and video chats, physicians are now able to gain the same understanding of a patient’s condition without being in the same room as them.

In turn, AI will be able to be used as a digital diagnostic tool. In dermatology, for example, cameras will be able to help in the diagnosis of skin conditions. Additionally, for those who suspect they have a sexually transmitted infection, they may be able to share a photo from the comfort of their own home and get a proper diagnosis and even a pharmaceutical treatment delivered to their door.

In short, we will see photographs as the throughline to give information of what the physician is looking for in a diagnosis without having to see the patient.

Follow Bill’s HIT coverage on LinkedIn: Bill Siwicki
Email him: bsiwicki@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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