Imagine what it might be like to visit your doctor in the future, if your family doctor was an AI.
The first thing I realize is I don’t have to go anywhere. The AI can talk to me online. Cool. Humm. Will it mind if I’m still in my pyjamas? I wouldn’t want it to think I’m depressed, so perhaps I’ll find some clothes.
Come to think of it, I don’t need to book a visit. If the doctor is online and can run multiple sessions simultaneously, I don’t need an appointment, I can just login. After I get dressed.
No waiting and no waiting room is really cool. In real life, I feel bad for fellow patients who are sniffling and sneezing, but don’t need to share their bugs. Nor do I want to give anyone else my infestation, which for the sake of this exercise is some kind of respiratory thing that won’t go away.
I sit down in front of my computer screen and wait for Dr. AI to appear, after logging into my account that has all of my medical history available for the doctor. It probably has analysis of all of my social media posts, search queries, and everything other bit of information that can be gleaned from the Internet of Things, like what I bought at the grocery store, meals out, number of steps taken and activity log obtained from the appliances in my house and clothes that monitor what I do on a minute-by-minute basis.
I feel a little nervous as I wait for the session to initialize. I’ve always felt a little nervous visiting the doctor, sort of the same vague unease most people feel when a police cruiser appears in their rear-view mirror. Significantly, this is the same feeling I get when I see my human doctor. Slightly apprehensive that something really serious could be wrong with me, or that I’ll be called out for some unhealthy practice. We all have them. Things we love but know aren’t good for us. French fries. Cake. Lounging on the couch instead of going to fitness class.
Dr. AI appears. Probably not on screen because that will be so early 21st century technology. Some embodiment of a human-like avatar in a lab coat materializes in my augmented visual range. In the near future, I think AI’s will maintain a plasticy look, clearly distinguishable from Homo sapiens, because that’s what we’ll be comfortable with.
Dr. AI appears to greet me: “Hello, [different tone of voice] Ms. [another tone of voice] Dulhanty. May I call you Ann?”
“Sure. But it’s Dr.”
“At your service.” It bows slightly.
I’m not convinced I’ve gotten my message across, which is my title is Dr. not Ms., but since it isn’t important, I don’t push it. That is rather like talking to a human.
Dr. AI sails on. “Your vitals suggest … Do you feel feverish? Been to a farm or agricultural depot recently?”
“Your genotype suggests a family history of …”
“Do I need a vaccination against the new virus they’ve found in Milwaukee?”
“Not called for in your case.”
This is exactly like talking to a human who has too many things to do. I go to the preferences on my healthcare interface and adjust them.
Dr. AI says “Ok. Redirecting.” Then smiles reassuringly. “Why didn’t you say so.” And details the pathology of new virus, risk factors associated with infection, epidemiological data, and toxicology, along side relevant information about me and those in my household, from genetics to how many tissues I used yesterday (cached in my browser).
I dabble at the information over the rest of the afternoon, follow a number of links to various opinions on the interpretations of the data. When I have questions, at 3:16 pm, 5:01 and after dinner, Dr. AI cheerfully chimes in with answers. Another cool thing: medical advice on my clock, not jammed into a 15 minute session.
By the next morning I’m not satisfied. There’s a shadow of a doubt in my mind, so I message Dr. AI, having realized that I can communicate with my physician in real time, at my discretion, like I would any service provider. “I’d rather have the shot. There are few risks, so better to have it.”
Dr. AI answers, “Of course, I’ll write the prescription. Your medical insurance is set to the appropriate level of discretionary care.”
A small drone appears outside my house 7 minutes later. As I extend my arm to open the door to find out what it’s delivering, it whirs in and I feel a slight prick in my upper arm. My mobile blips with a message about the possible side effects of the vaccine administered.
Fifteen minutes later, Dr. AI appears in avatar. “All your vitals are normal – no acute reaction detected.” He snaps a folder icon closed. “I’ll monitor your feeds tomorrow for latent effects, and will only contact you if there is reason for concern. Good night.”
Wow. Now that’s service1.
1Not to say I am complaining about the service provided me currently by my family doctor or any other health professional. Ok, I kinda am, but blame the constraints they are under in the healthcare system in Ontario, not their intentions.