Sunday, January 12, 2020

Welcome to the new decade! 2020 is here! Artificial Intelligence - better than humans?

Happy New Year! Welcome to the 3rd decade of the 21st Century!

2020 has arrived on our doorstep and we had welcomed a new decade. We have left behind 2010s with many contributions to the development of eye care and eye health. As anticipated our world is continuously digitized so is the field of ophthalmology. Telemedicine is here so are doctors on call coming to the rescue with Uber/Lyft like on demand care.

The other day a friend of mine was bedridden with a severe cold and she later confessed that it was easy enough to pay $99 fee for an online doctor on call local to Orange County service that sends a board certified primary care physician to patient's house to examine and treat her. No leaving the house, waiting in the waiting room of urgent care or emergency room department, or lengthy insurance paperwork was necessary. With a click of a button a doctor appeared at her door step.  I believe the field of ophthalmology is going in a similar direction.  More and more services are available for online contact lens dispensaries.   However, these services still rely on a prescription by a real doctor who patient needs to see, however, a shift is on the way to automated refraction available online. It is not accurate at this point, but this decade may change that.

A significant challenge of he world wide web is a deluge of available information and one's ability to sift through it in a meaningful way. One can google the symptoms and "self diagnose" his or her problem.  Over and over again I have seen patients in my chair ridden with anxiety after reading about diagnosis that is not remotely relevant to his or her condition.  I have to take the time to disspell "Dr. Google"'s diagnostic techniques and reassure the patient.

There is a caveat to the technology in its early adaptation period in health care. At this point, in my opinion there is no single Google search or Healthgrades reference that can diagnose or treat any particular disease.  A board certified physician is still the gold standard of care. There is no substitute to a face to face human to human interaction where subtleties of clinical presentation, physical exam, mental state, socioeconomic situation as well as ability to process comprehensive medical information in the year 2020.

As a practicing physician, I like thousands of my colleagues, had to embrace Electronic Health Records (EHR), that have digitized a medical chart.  Now, the new task is to let not technology mislead the patient and their well being.  A fine line of balancing the use of technology will be walked by all who are involved in direct care, and that is what I will personally watch evolve this decade with great anticipation.