Can AI Replace Doctors?

Written by Adam Morris

Updated August 5, 2023
Kid wearing doctors coat surrounded by AI robots in line

In many industries, people are talking about the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) which can improve efficiency and accuracy. But can it replace doctors in the medical field?

Technology has made it possible to incorporate AI into the healthcare sector, which helps in diagnosing diseases and performing surgeries. Although the shortage of doctors in many areas of the world might make AI taking on some tasks seem attractive, there are concerns about relying exclusively on AI in healthcare.

The article will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of using AI in healthcare and explain why it cannot fully replace the personal care provided by doctors. It emphasizes the importance of combining AI technology with human expertise to ensure the best possible healthcare outcomes for patients.

Advantages of AI

The technology of AI holds immense promise to transform the field of healthcare. It can detect and treat life-threatening conditions more quickly and accurately than ever before by providing specialized diagnoses. AI-based systems require no human input, so they are also very useful in places with limited access to healthcare resources.

One example of how AI can benefit healthcare is the use of Google’s algorithm for identifying diabetic retinopathy, which was recently tested by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and found to improve accuracy in diagnosis.

Heart shape 3D technology

Artificial intelligence has the potential to assist with diagnosing and treating numerous conditions, including rare diseases, digestive issues, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and more. Reducing the time for patients to receive effective treatments could lead to cost and delay reductions.

With further development, AI could even become an integral part in reducing misdiagnoses or incorrect medications being prescribed as well as improving doctor productivity.

Risks of AI

The risk posed by artificial intelligence has both political and social implications. In the medical field, for example, the potential for AI to produce incorrect diagnoses or overlook critical details raises serious safety concerns.

Harvard Law School professor Jonathan Zittrain compared AI to asbestos and warned that it could have latent bad effects, which might be too hard to get rid of once discovered. AI can even be tricked—one algorithm incorrectly identified a tabby cat as guacamole when some pixels were changed.

Regulatory agencies are struggling to create regulations that measure and validate AI’s performance in medical diagnostics. In April 2019, the FDA announced plans to develop regulations focusing on adapting medical AI products based on new data.

There is also the problem of data bias; if algorithms are trained with incomplete or biased data, they can propagate these biases throughout different applications–resulting in inaccurate decisions being made with disastrous consequences.

Graphic art of hospital hallway with sun shining through windows

This means job losses in fields like medicine since many tasks could be done more efficiently and accurately by AI programmed with unbiased data than by humans whose judgement may be clouded by bias or lack of experience.

Will AI Replace Doctors?

The concern that medical professionals may end up replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) is not unfounded. This fear has been fueled by prominent AI proponents, who have gone so far as to call some professions in the medical field, such as pathology and radiology, dinosaurs doomed for extinction.

Recently, this topic came to light when a young Johns Hopkins University fellow asked Elliot Fishman, a professor at Johns Hopkins Medicine since 1980, whether or not people like him were about to be replaced. Fishman’s humorous response was that his wife should quickly save money just incase!

With this in mind, it’s clear that AI technology has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare system. Already, AI is being used to examine images far faster than humans can with more accuracy and precision than ever before. In the future, diagnoses could be much quicker and better informed than they currently are thanks to these advances in machine learning capabilities.

Male doctor wearing doctor coat smiling

However, regardless of how powerful these systems might become in the future doctors will always play an essential role within healthcare; machines still need instructions on what data is important and how it should be interpreted correctly.

Reasons Why Human Doctors Won’t Be Replaced By AI

Human presence will continue to be necessary in healthcare in the future.

The first reason why healthcare will continue to need humans of the future is due to the fact that healthcare involves decisions based on complex social and moral values.

During crucial situations such as when a patient may require options that require difficult choices, only human judgement can be relied upon to make those decisive calls. In cases such as these, AI algorithms cannot safely come up with medical judgments without risking harm to the patient and other potential consequences.

Two female nurses smiling at each other

Another important reason why healthcare will continue to need humans in the future is because of the complexity and professional nature of care delivery. Even if robots or algorithms could be designed to match human intensity and accuracy in identification and diagnosis of illnesses, forming relationships with patients is something only humans are capable of doing in order to achieve positive patient outcomes.

This requires interpersonal interaction activities such as empathy, building trust, listening carefully and being sensitive enough not just towards patients but also towards their family members who accompany them during visits.

Healthcare providers must also decipher feelings expressed through body language as opposed to verbal communication which can play an important role while treating a person’s ailments both physical and mental baggage sometimes related but often intertwined.

Empathy of Human Beings

Today, we have a wide range of technological solutions available to help us solve our problems. However, there is one sphere in which technology falls short – empathy.

While we can easily trust technology regarding certain decisions and tasks, it is not quite able to replicate the kind of understanding, trust and response that only humans are capable of providing during delicate conversations about personal matters.

For example, when dealing with an emotional health issue or challenges in day-to-day life, robots nor even highly advanced algorithms cannot provide the same level of support stemming from genuine human understanding as an experienced doctor would be able to offer by listening carefully and responding thoughtfully.

Woman wearing doctors coat holding red heart on both hands

Empathic understanding is essential for any meaningful bond between two people. Having someone listen intently and validate another person’s thoughts and feelings establishes a deep bond of trust that goes beyond words – something machines will never achieve no matter how far they evolve.

Therefore, while highly sophisticated technological creations may often serve as our faithful assistants across all categories of existence, they have yet to replace human empathy in any meaningful capacity – at least not anytime soon.

Human Physicians Use Non-Linear Method

In order to make the correct diagnosis, physicians frequently have to use a non-linear approach. The TV show House M.D. showed that treating a patient with an unknown illness isn’t always straightforward. Finding the correct diagnosis and treatment was not a straightforward process, and the team had to consider multiple options before succeeding.

For example, each possible diagnosis that was considered came with its own suggested treatment option, but none of them proved effective until finally, they stumbled upon the correct answer: phosmet poisoning from an unwashed piece of clothing bought from a street vendor.

This case speaks to the importance of non-linear approaches in medical diagnosis and treatment as it is not at all uncommon for physicians to encounter a situation where an algorithm won’t help them determine what is wrong or how to treat it correctly.

This requires creative methods for determining the ideal treatment plan for each patient, as well as being prepared for potential complications or unexpected outcomes. Physicians must employ both scientific inquiry and instinct in order to work effectively in this kind of environment.

Competent professionals are necessary to handle complex digital technologies

The proliferation of complex digital technologies have created a huge demand for competent professionals in many fields. As healthcare continues to evolve and embrace the potentials presented by advanced technology, medical professionals must remain mindful of how these developments will affect their roles.

Older doctor looking at heart model on computer screen

Qualified healthcare professionals equipped with the skills to think critically, exercise judgment and interpret data on a deeper level are necessary to address this rapidly changing landscape. Replicating the complexity of the human brain in a machine is challenging, whether it’s in robotics or Artificial Intelligence (AI).

It is thus more economical and practical to program robotic or AI systems for repetitive tasks utilizing factual data, leaving complex analysis and challenging decision-making into the hands of skilled professionals who can make sense of intricate truths within digital healthcare environments.

Moreover, no AI powered computer application can make precise judgments involving human emotion and experiences; interpretation must remain in human territory.

Certain tasks will remain beyond the capabilities of algorithms and robots.

In today’s world, technological advancement has brought with it a myriad of benefits. Automation of processes has been particularly advantageous in the healthcare industry, where doctors, nurses and other medical staff have daily monotonous tasks to complete.

According to a study, physicians in the US spend approximately 8.7 hours per week on administrative tasks, including paperwork. Psychiatry specifically is burdened with such duties, with 20.3% of its working hours devoted solely to paperwork.

3D heart model with heart figure on screen on background

While some of these often mundane tasks can be automated and assigned to bots – such as IBM’s Watson – there are still tasks which technology cannot do for us due to its inherent inability to understand more nuanced aspects of human life.

For example, no algorithm or robot could ever be built which can provide proper companionship for elderly patients or even perform a Heimlich manoeuvre in case someone starts choking; these require the kind of cognitive insight that only humans possess and will never be accomplished by machines alone.

Therefore, certain basic computing jobs and medical operations relying heavily on human touch are key trades not yet ready to be taken over by automation in any capacity yet.

Also see: How To Prevent AI From Taking Over Jobs?


The ongoing debate of technology versus humans has been an ever evolving, ongoing conversation for quite some time now. It is important to remember that technology was created to assist humans in their daily tasks and activities, and not to compete with them. Although there are tasks that machines may be better equipped to do than humans, collaboration between the two is invaluable and necessary.

A recent study saw this concept come full circle as deep learning combined with the human pathologist’s diagnoses makes identifying metastatic breast cancer much more accurate and successful. The overall image classification of cancers was displayed to be much higher when aided by the machine, even reducing the human error rate by 85 percent.

It is examples like these that show how essential the need for incorporating technology into our lives truly is. Instead of viewing them as competitors, allowing for the two to work together can create unprecedented performance outcomes which leads us towards an even brighter future.


Why can’t AI replace radiologists?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) may be able to perform certain tasks that radiologists do, such as detecting abnormalities, but it cannot fully replace them. In addition to interpreting images, radiologists possess vital knowledge and experience that aid in disease diagnosis and treatment decisions. Radiologists are also able to make connections between findings and the patient’s medical history, which machines cannot do. In healthcare, it is important for radiologists to be able to provide emotional support and communicate effectively with patients. While AI can assist radiologists, they cannot replace the human element and expertise that radiologists provide.

Adam is a crypto expert & AI enthusiast who has been researching and writing on the topics since 2017.

He’s spoken on numerous podcasts and has been featured in many prominent media publications such as Forbes, CNN & CNBC.