Apr 11, 2024 - Health

A doctor's bullish case for AI, co-written by AI

The book cover of Chat GPT MD by Robert Pearl.

The cover of Robert Pearl's new book was designed by Jonathan Pliego with assistance from Midjourney's generative AI. Photo: Courtesy of Robert Pearl.

When the former head of Kaiser Permanente's physician group started to write last fall about how the explosion in generative AI would change health care, he worried he might be too optimistic.

  • Less than a year later, Robert Pearl says he probably wasn't bullish enough, pointing to a rash of health care tools recently announced by AI chipmaker Nvidia.

The big picture: Pearl, a Stanford University professor and health care thought leader, this week published "ChatGPT, MD: How AI-empowered patients and doctors can take back control of American medicine."

  • Oh, and ChatGPT is his co-author.

What he's saying: ChatGPT and other generative AI will soon help patients manage chronic diseases — for example, by telling them whether to change medicines based on their specific data gathered via tools like wearables — and make diagnoses.

  • The way Pearl sees it, generative AI won't ever replace doctors, but it could actually improve the doctor-patient relationship by providing care that could be done by the patient at home.

"Today what exists is not ready for primetime. But it's doubling in ability every year. It's hard to imagine in five years we won't be able to do this," Pearl told Axios.

  • He pointed out that patients today own a lot of personal health data — from electronic medical records to genetic information to wearable devices — but don't always know what to do with it.
  • ChatGPT will eventually be able to take all of that information and analyze it in a way that can tell patients what to do, he predicted.
  • For instance, if a kid has a fever in the middle of the night, ChatGPT could help a parent decide if they can wait until the morning to talk to a doctor or if they should immediately go to the emergency room.

The intrigue: Pearl, who previously wrote two books that each took two years to publish, said he decided to co-author with ChatGPT and self-publish this book because he worried the pace of generative AI's evolution would otherwise make it outdated.

  • "If this can change medicine, it should certainly affect the speed of processing of books," Pearl said. "Fortunately, it did that. In about six months I was able to write a book of the same quality."
  • He said he entered prompt after prompt, testing how ChatGPT might be used by doctors and patients, adding his own insights and voice. He also gave ChatGPT a couple of chapters to write completely on its own.

The bottom line: "This is going to have a massive impact on medical care. It's going to be as commonplace and necessary as the stethoscope was," Pearl said.

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