ChatGPT Will See You Now: Doctors Using AI to Answer Patient Questions

From The Wall Street Journal:

Behind every physician’s medical advice is a wealth of knowledge, but soon, patients across the country might get advice from a different source: artificial intelligence.

In California and Wisconsin, OpenAI’s “GPT” generative artificial intelligence is reading patient messages and drafting responses from their doctors. The operation is part of a pilot program in which three health systems test if the AI will cut the time that medical staff spend replying to patients’ online inquiries.

UC San Diego Health and UW Health began testing the tool in April. Stanford Health Care aims to join the rollout early next week. Altogether, about two dozen healthcare staff are piloting this tool.

Marlene Millen, a primary care physician at UC San Diego Health who is helping lead the AI test, has been testing GPT in her inbox for about a week. Early AI-generated responses needed heavy editing, she said, and her team has been working to improve the replies. They are also adding a kind of bedside manner: If a patient mentioned returning from a trip, the draft could include a line that asked if their travels went well. “It gives the human touch that we would,” Dr. Millen said.

There is preliminary data that suggests AI could add value. ChatGPT scored better than real doctors at responding to patient queries posted online, according to a study published Friday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, in which a panel of doctors did blind evaluations of posts.

As many industries test ChatGPT as a business tool, hospital administrators and doctors are hopeful that the AI-assist will ease burnout among their staff, a problem that skyrocketed during the pandemic. The crush of messages and health-records management is a contributor, among administrative tasks, according to the American Medical Association.

Epic, the company based in Verona, Wis., that built the “MyChart” tool through which patients can message their healthcare providers, saw logins more than double from 106 million in the first quarter of 2020 to 260 million in the first quarter of 2023. Epic’s software enables hospitals to store patient records electronically.

Earlier this month, Epic and Microsoft announced that health systems would have access to OpenAI’s GPT through Epic’s software and Microsoft’s Azure cloud service. Microsoft has invested in OpenAI and is building artificial intelligence tools into its products. Hospitals are piloting GPT-3, a version of the large language model that is powering ChatGPT.

ChatGPT has mystified computer scientists for its skill in responding to medical queries—though it is known to make things up—including its ability to pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam. OpenAI’s language models haven’t been specifically trained on medical data sets, according to Eric Boyd, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of AI Platform, though medical studies and medical information were included in the vast data set that taught it to spot patterns.

“Doctors working with ChatGPT may be the best messenger,” said John Ayers, a computational epidemiologist at the University of California, San Diego, and an author of the JAMA study.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal