Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Psychiatry: Qualitative Findings from a Global Physician Survey

10/22/2019
by   Charlotte Blease, et al.
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The potential for machine learning to disrupt the medical profession is the subject of ongoing debate within biomedical informatics. This study aimed to explore psychiatrists' opinions about the potential impact of innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning on psychiatric practice. In Spring 2019, we conducted a web-based survey of 791 psychiatrists from 22 countries worldwide. The survey measured opinions about the likelihood future technology would fully replace physicians in performing ten key psychiatric tasks. This study involved qualitative descriptive analysis of written response to three open-ended questions in the survey. Comments were classified into four major categories in relation to the impact of future technology on patient-psychiatric interactions, the quality of patient medical care, the profession of psychiatry, and health systems. Overwhelmingly, psychiatrists were skeptical that technology could fully replace human empathy. Many predicted that 'man and machine' would increasingly collaborate in undertaking clinical decisions, with mixed opinions about the benefits and harms of such an arrangement. Participants were optimistic that technology might improve efficiencies and access to care, and reduce costs. Ethical and regulatory considerations received limited attention. This study presents timely information of psychiatrists' view about the scope of artificial intelligence and machine learning on psychiatric practice. Psychiatrists expressed divergent views about the value and impact of future technology with worrying omissions about practice guidelines, and ethical and regulatory issues.

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