Healthtech Industry Update | Can AI augment Empathy and Compassion in Healthcare?

Kurt Neubauer

Kurt Neubauer

With the advent of the latest technologies and software, including generative artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality, ChatGPT, and others, organizations are racing to find purpose and use for these new tools in fear of losing relevance in the marketplace.

The healthcare industry, that inherently is responsible for the lives and touchpoints of care of many populations across the globe is moving towards digitizing healthcare which currently demands:

  • greater discernment
  • true impact
  • improved quality
  • and reduced cost

The areas where AI is currently applies are:

  • interactive and customized patient experiences,
  • facilitated or eliminated administrative tasks in hospital or
  • facilitated or eliminated administrative tasks in provider workflows
  • improved access to healthcare.

But what is with empathy and compassion?

Empathy and compassion go hand-in-hand. Evidence increasingly validates that exhibiting empathy in a healthcare setting, including providers, professionals, social care workers, etc., has shown results of higher satisfaction levels, and better health outcomes for patients.

Compassionate care is also highly regarded by patients and can help providers determine appropriate care plans that focus on the unique patient’s needs based on their care story. Compassionate care can also strengthen physician-patient relationships as trust is established throughout care.

Patients value compassionate and empathic concern as much as, if not more than, technical competence, when choosing a physician, yet empathy and compassion among healthcare professionals is sometimes seen to decrease over time, especially during training and clinical practice.

  • In combatting time and labor constraints, AI has proven to
  • simplify workloads,
  • maximize time
  • offload repetitive or organizational tasks from an already over-burdened workforce.

In regard to emotion, empathy or compassion, AI has also progressed to be able to recognize and respond to emotional distress.

Experts debate AI cannot replace human empathy, specifically in a healthcare setting and with empathy being key to the successful treatment of patients, yet a recent JAMA Internal Medicine report found ChatGPT’s patient-provider communication skills were rated higher than that of their physician counterparts, including on the empathetic scale.

How AI can help augment empathy and compassion:

The healthcare industry should prioritize a patient’s experience with compassion and empathy within healthcare rather than just looking at the outcomes. Through this, when using AI tools to augment and improve compassionate and empathetic care, we can ensure high standards are met with each interaction.
Our human impact on the consumer experience needs to be at the forefront of our care as we look to improve performance. Health teams feel a sense of responsibility towards their impact on a human’s lived experience.

This is a foundational element to a better company culture where healthcare systems and organizations are better able to impact patient outcomes and assure the intersection of AI and empathy is beneficial for all.

What is the current state:

Yet to conclude that AI and artificial empathy will evolve enough to completely replace physicians/healthcare workers, or the human side of healthcare is to misrepresent the issues at hand and the possible solutions. To digitize healthcare and lean on the emerging technologies is to find the opportunity within the relationship between machine and human to augment humans’ ability to be human – to empathize and provide the compassionate touch to care.

Here the full article from MedCity News:

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