Will Artificial Intelligence Replace Medical Practitioners?

A robot standing with a first aide kit next to it
Photo by Kirill_m – yayimages.com

Will physicians be a thing of the past? It is claimed that robots will replace doctors by 2035 and artificial intelligence (AKA AI, machine language, machine learning) is the source of this highly sort after the trend of the 21st century.

Indeed, AI is proving to be a benefit across a broad spectrum of industries. It is of special use for law enforcement, such as the Department of Homeland Security who is using machine language to help identify human traffickers. Moreover, the medical industry is very interesting and aggressive with promoting AI and the results are impressive. 

A study by Massachusetts General Hospital showed that machine learning is more efficient in analyzing readings for mammograms of high-risk cancers than human radiologists. Similar efficiency of AI was reported when examining retinal images of diabetic patients. 

Advancements in medical technology go much farther than that. Be it imaging, testing, or microscopic surgery, machine language is now widely used in the medical field. It is believed that AI will provide more evidence-based medical care along with more accurate diagnoses and provide very few chances of errors.

And the industry is thriving with new and innovative minds who will bring us to a new technical revolution of machine learning all through this 21st century, such as the discussion in this tweet.

What Exactly is Artificial Intelligence?

In a nutshell, AI is the use of computers to study data and subsequently learn from that data in order to produce more efficient results. 

With that said, the health care industry still has certain limitations when using machine language. For example, it cannot replace the need for medical practitioners physically and psychologically diagnosing a patient, but as advancements continue, it is not a far thought that practitioners may be seeing less and less of us.

One example is heart monitor apps that you can download to your smartphone, along with acquiring the appropriate apparatuses. Another example is small chips that a surgeon might place near your heart and as you sleep, it monitors your heartbeat and sends the data back to the hospital.

Whether human physicians will always remain in the health care equation in the future or they will leave and we will be diagnosed by a hologram doctor remains to be seen. Let’s see how close we really are to having robots diagnose our physical health.

Benefits of AI in the Medical Industry 

Animated man with bacteria showing moving towards him

Intelligent software has numerous applications. It is widely used in robot-assisted surgeries, analysis of images like CT scans and MRIs, and clinical trials. The total investment in healthcare AI is expected to reach $6.6 billion by 2021. There are many important reasons for such a huge investment. 

Some of the reasons why AI is likely to have a greater hand in helping human doctors are:

Faster and More Accurate Diagnosis

Though artificial intelligence is not a real doctor, it is an accurate tool for faster and more accurate diagnoses. Some diseases require immediate intervention, and human medical practitioners might fail to meet this need.

Neurons in the Brain

AI systems are designed similar to the neural network in the human brain and have the ability to learn from previous cases and that is the key – they learn.

Unlike standard software which simply performs a task or multiple tasks, machine language goes one step further by taking certain facts (called data points) and compares them to other examples to would determine the outcome. AI also has the ability to quickly access knowledge bases around the world in order to make an accurate judgment and a faster diagnosis. 

Interactions with humans can be exhausting for medical practitioners, and subsequently, increase the chances of an inaccurate diagnosis. But computers never get tired. They can deal with hundreds of patients without affecting the chances of error.

Cost Reduction

Investment in machine learning is generally considered by many to be an expensive proposition. In reality, though, the operating costs are far less when compared to human practitioners. The initial investment is huge, but it can be easily recovered because of lower operating costs. 

Reliance on AI also saves costs for the patients. Since AI can provide you with a solution without visiting a doctor’s office, it saves traveling time and cost. 

Virtual Presence 

Doctor reading medical computer data

Not exactly AI, but still an advancement in technology, telemedicine allows people with medical issues to have a video conference with a physician without the need to visit his/her office.

Regardless of your location, you can seek accurate medical assistance for numerous ailments. This is exceptionally helpful for people that live in rural areas where medical practitioners are many miles away.

Reasons Why Artificial Intelligence Cannot Replace Doctors 

Even though AI is widely used in the medical industry, it cannot replace the need for medical practitioners altogether. Some of the reasons why there will always be a need for physicians are:

Robots and AI are Not Empathetic

Compassion is one area where computers cannot compete. At least not currently, but who knows?

Human beings are social animals. They do not only have physical needs but emotional needs as well. At times, a patient visits a doctor’s office just to be heard and understood. 

Though machine language can help in providing a faster and more accurate diagnosis, the algorithms can never fulfill the emotional needs of patients. For life-changing decisions like surgery, even the smartest algorithms cannot listen to your concerns and provide compassionate advice. It is still impossible to imagine healthcare without the human element involved. 

Not Everything Can be Classified as 0s & 1s

Algorithms classify everything as 0s and 1s – the binary code (DNA of computers) used in all machines worldwide. However, in case there are multiple problems, it is may become complicated before reaching a conclusion.

Diseases also follow the same pattern of variability. AI is still incapable of analyzing complex information about multiple diseases and illnesses at the same time. In the future, there might be an improvement in technology that can process more complicated information, but right now, our dependence on computers for accurate diagnosis remains specific to single ailments.

Human Element in Data Entry 

AI is not self-sufficient. It still needs humans to enter data. Only then will artificial intelligence process information and suggest a conclusion. If there is human error in the data entry phase, there will be an error in the analysis and diagnosis. Therefore, we cannot always rely solely on the diagnosis of machines, so currently, there will always be the need for a medical practitioner to reach a final conclusion.

It’s Not About Technology vs. Humans 

Robot looking into hyperspace

Machines and human beings are not rivals. They are partners working towards the same goal. Technology helps in providing more accurate and timely solutions, but it lacks the ability to process complex information at this time.

Human medical practitioners, on the other hand, are not as quick thorough on specific diagnoses and might reach a faulty conclusion. Only if humans and technology work together, can they provide safe and reliable medical solutions to the patients. 


Doctor with StethoscopeWe see that there is a bright future for the medical industry as far as technological advancements are concerned. The human error aspect has decreased drastically, while efficiency has increased multiple times over, but even considering the efficiency of AI, it is highly unlikely that robots will replace human physicians in this decade. 

So for now, AI and humans will have to work in collaboration, but who knows? Maybe in our lifetime, we may just see that holographic doctor after all.