When not feeling well, a visit to Dr. AI?

Luis Almeida
Posted 10/25/17

I don’t know about you, but when I am sick I like going to see the doctor and speaking with a person. There is something natural about seeking medical advice from a fellow human being. After all, …

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When not feeling well, a visit to Dr. AI?


I don’t know about you, but when I am sick I like going to see the doctor and speaking with a person.

There is something natural about seeking medical advice from a fellow human being. After all, they themselves also struggle with some of the many issues I struggle with like  fighting a cold, having a headache or how to deal with allergies.

What if I told you that technology has the potential to make physicians a thing of the past and change the former patient-doctor dynamic forever? 

Deep learning, or networks that are capable of learning unlabeled, unsupervised data, is already having an impact on the practice of medicine.

Do you know that there are a number of startup companies already able to analyze radiographs and MRI scans with a higher degree of accuracy? Let me say this again. There is a fully mechanical medical system named "entilic" that is able to detect and classify lung nodes as either benign or malignant in human beings without the consultation of a physician.  

Holy cow! We now have sophisticated self-diagnosing medical algorithms that detect early tumor stages.

In which world are we living? Even the "untouchable" medical field is now being affected by advances in modern technology.

Well, I have to admit that I am uncomfortable with the idea that a machine could be my next family physician. Maybe I am just too old school to accept this possibility. I trust physicians much more than any machine.

I am not saying that I don’t trust a medical computer system, though. There is room for that, for sure. However, the moment  we start accepting fully automated, computer-based care, I think we have gone a bit too far. 

What if the machine is wrong and you die? I am not sure if I can trust a deep learning system that claims to be able to calculate patients' rates of medicinal drug recovery. It doesn’t seem right to me. How can we really know that these systems are right, anyway?

I don’t deny that some computer systems already have the capability of examining hundreds of 3D molecule images, and provide quite sophisticated outcomes for a trained physician. What I am not sure is if we should be constantly celebrating advancements in technology from startup health tech organizations, just for the sake of advancing technology.

I see the value of a machine helping us with detecting cancer from blood samples, but at what cost? If physicians are then downgraded to the role of an assistant, I think this is a bad idea.   

The latter of these two scenarios is the scary part to me. Investors of groundbreaking medical technology have argued that the machine will be capable of having the brainpower of thousands of doctors in the near future, and should help, rather than hurt, patients seeking a doctor’s expertise. I bet that many doctors believe otherwise. 

Which impact will these upcoming technologies have on our local medical offerings? Is it going to bring better care to our communities? I honestly don’t know.

What I do know is that we are going to experience, in our lifetime, a major shift in how we engage in the logistics of the consumption of medical care — both in Cleveland and beyond. Many claim that artificial intelligence will never fully replace doctors. I am skeptical about that. AI will replace many doctors because as AI algorithms become more sophisticated, the need for human intervention to work side-by-side with these computer systems will sharply decrease. 

Medicine is on its way to becoming a human computer interaction experience for the majority of the people. Many MDs will be replaced with these AI technologies over time, and the ones who manage to survive the transition will find themselves stretched professionally.

I hope that my predictions prove to be wrong. I just can’t see us deviating from this obvious technological trend. Machine learning is here to stay, and they will eventually mass infiltrate our system of medicine when we least expect.

Be ready! 


(About the writer: Dr. Luis C. Almeida is an associate professor of communication at Lee University and TEDx speaker. He is the author of the book, “Becoming a Brand: The Rise of Technomoderation,” and a devoted Christian. He can be reached via his website at


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