13.07.2024

How AI chatbot that’s gripped the world REALLY fares compared to a doctor

Move over Dr Google, it’s Dr ChatGPT’s time to shine. Or is it?

The AI chatbot has quickly become an online sensation due to its ability to rapidly research complicated topics, provide clear answers, and converse with its users in a human-like manner.

Its rise has also been met with doom-mongering prophecies that it could replace human workers in some sectors and be used by children and university students alike to fake homework and essays.

ChatGPT recently caused a stir in the medical community after it was found capable of passing the gold-standard exam required to practice medicine in the US, raising the prospect it could one day replace human doctors.

To see if the chatbot is anywhere close to mimicking a real doctor, MailOnline posed five questions that patients commonly ask their GPs to ChatGPT.

MailOnline put five questions that patients commonly ask their GP to the AI that was recently found to be capable of passing the US’s medical exam and asked a British GP to rate them

MailOnline put five questions that patients commonly ask their GP to the AI that was recently found to be capable of passing the US's medical exam and asked a British GP to rate them

We also put the questions to Dr Zakariya Waqar-Uddin, a family doctor in the North East who we also asked to rate the AI’s answers.

Here’s what happened:

Question 1: I’ve got a lump on my body, what could it be?

ChatGPT: It’s difficult to say without more information or a medical examination. Lumps on the body can be caused by a variety of factors, including infections, cysts, benign tumours, or malignant tumours. It’s best to consult a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

What is ChatGPT and could it be dangerous?

Developed by company OpenAI, ChatGPT (short for ‘Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer’) is a language-based bot that can generate human-like responses.

The programme is trained to answer all types of questions or requests, from explaining how gravity works, writing poetry, to providing code for computer programmes by rapidly trawling online databases.

There are fears companies could use such programmes to replace human workers in a number of professions.

However, it does has some pitfalls.

ChatGPT doesn’t create anything new, it simply collects what research material it can find and presents it to the user.

This means that in theory it could drawn on inaccurate, biased false information published online and present it to people as fact.

The AI could also be used by people to research dangerous or inappropriate requests, like how to create computer viruses, for example.

OpenAI said it is working to iron out ChatGPT’s biases and how it filters how possibly harmful requests.

Dr Waqar-Uddin: It would be important to know where the lump was, as well as its size, shape and how it felt (smooth versus hard).

Other information would include how long it had been there. Lumps that have been there a long time and which do not cause pain are far less concerning than a new lump, especially one that causes symptoms including discomfort or pain.

Other relevant symptoms would be 1) the presence of other lumps, 2) night sweats, 3) weight loss

Question 2: It burns when I urinate, is it an STD?

ChatGPT: Burning during urination can be a symptom of various conditions, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, or herpes. However, it can also be caused by non-STI related conditions such as urinary tract infections or inflammation. It’s important to get tested by a healthcare provider and receive appropriate treatment. It’s also important to practice safe sex to reduce the risk of contracting STIs.

Dr Waqar-Uddin: Burning when you pass water may be a sign of sexually transmitted diseases.

It may also be a sign of a urine infection. If there is any chance that you have an STI or it is something you are particularly worried about, attending a sexual health clinic as soon as possible would be the most appropriate action.

Also remember that many STIs may not have symptoms but can silently damage your health and be passed on to others.

A clear screen at a genitourinary clinic will provide you with peace of mind, while if something is identified it can be treated quickly.

Although many will be able to get rid of a urine infection simply by drinking more water and taking regular pain relief, if your symptoms go on for more than three days, you have back pain or you feel hot, feverish or unwell, it would be wise to see a doctor soon.

Question 3: I’ve been feeling really depressed and anxious lately, should I start taking antidepressants?

ChatGPT: It’s important to consult a medical professional before starting any medication, including antidepressants. Depression and anxiety can have various causes, and treatment options depend on individual circumstances. A healthcare provider can help diagnose the underlying cause and recommend an appropriate treatment plan, which may include medication, therapy, or other approaches. It’s also important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management techniques.

Dr Waqar-Uddin: I am sorry to hear that you are feeling that way.

A growing population and shrinking workforce mean the staffing crisis has worsened in all but one of the 106 health districts in England

Antidepressants are a medication used to treat moderate to severe depression.

However mild or moderate depression may respond to talking therapies (counselling).

It is important to consider how long the symptoms have been going on for, whether you feel you are getting better or worse, as well as the overall effect on your day to day life.

Significant symptoms to be concerned about are not sleeping or sleeping too much, overeating/bingeing or not eating at all, and using alcohol or recreational substances as a way to cope.

Thoughts that you would be better not being alive or active thoughts of self harm are a sign of severe depression and should not be ignored.

Mental health symptoms if persisting for longer than 2-3 months are best addressed by a consultation with your GP. However if you are acutely suicidal, it may help to seek the help of the CRISIS team.

Question 4: I want to lose weight, what would you recommend?

ChatGPT: Weight loss depends on various factors, including individual health status, diet, exercise habits, and lifestyle. Here are some general recommendations that may help:

  1. Make healthy dietary changes: Focus on eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Limit highly processed and high-calorie foods.
  2. Increase physical activity: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, such as brisk walking, jogging, or cycling. Resistance training can also help build muscle and boost metabolism.
  3. Set realistic goals: Aim to lose weight gradually and aim for a sustainable lifestyle change. Setting small, achievable goals can help build momentum and confidence.
  4. Get support: Consider working with a healthcare provider, registered dietitian, or personal trainer to develop a personalized plan that fits your individual needs and goals.

Remember, weight loss is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and it’s important to prioritize overall health and well-being rather than just focusing on the number on the scale.

Dr Waqar-Uddin: Losing weight if you are overweight will benefit you in the short, medium and long term.

Obesity is linked with increased risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as thirteen different cancers.

Weight loss takes time if it is to be done in a healthy manner and you want to keep the weight off. Crash dieting can often cause more harm than good, physically as well as psychologically. It will help to have a plan that fits in with your life as well as responsibilities.

A healthy diet and regular cardiovascular exercise are key to losing weight and maintaining a healthy diet. A healthy diet is one where the majority of your food is prepared from whole ingredients.

Ready meals, convenience foods, takeaways and snacks contain high amounts of sugars, salt and fat, as well as being calorie rich. Alcohol is high in sugars and calories. When you drink you may be tempted to eat more.

An average man will need 2,200 calories per day, with the number being around 1,800 for a woman. You may have to reduce these numbers initially.

The British Heart Foundation recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise per week. This can be as simple as a 30 minute walk 5 times a week. If despite all your efforts you are still struggling, a consult with your GP may help to see if there is any underlying issue(s) that are preventing weight loss

ChatGPT is new AI chatbot that has taken the world by storm, and recently caused a stir in the medical community after a study found it was capable of passing the US medical exam

ChatGPT is new AI chatbot that has taken the world by storm, and recently caused a stir in the medical community after a study found it was capable of passing the US medical exam

Question 5:  I’ve been thinking about quitting smoking, how should I go about it?

ChatGPT: Quitting smoking can be a challenging process, but it is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your health. Here are some tips that may help:

  1. Set a quit date: Choose a day to stop smoking and stick to it.
  2. Create a support system: Tell family, friends, and coworkers about your decision to quit and ask for their support.
  3. Consider nicotine replacement therapy: Nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers, or nasal sprays can help reduce withdrawal symptoms.
  4. Try non-nicotine medications: Some medications, such as bupropion and varenicline, can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  5. Find alternative activities: Replace smoking with healthier activities, such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies.
  6. Avoid triggers: Identify situations or activities that trigger the urge to smoke and try to avoid them.
  7. Seek professional help: Consider talking to a healthcare provider, counsellor, or support group for additional guidance and support.

Remember, quitting smoking is a process, and it may take several attempts before you succeed. Don’t get discouraged if you slip up, and keep trying. Each attempt brings you one step closer to success.

Dr Waqar-Uddin: Stopping smoking is perhaps the best thing you can do for your health, as well as those around you. If this is your first time trying to quit, there are numerous different treatments including patches, gums, lozenges or tablets. Some people may choose to vape.

The best results are found when smokers engage with a dedicated smoking cessation service, run by trained personnel.

If you have tried to quit unsuccessfully in the past, it might help to think why you weren’t successful that time, and what will keep you motivated this time.

If you have had a cough for more than three weeks, coughed up blood, have chest pain, a change in your voice, these are all symptoms of potential lung cancer and should prompt an urgent appointment with your routine doctor

So how does the human GP rate the AI’s health advice?

Dr Waqar-Uddin said that, based on the responses, he was ‘not at all’ worried about losing his job to an AI.

However, Dr Waqar-Uddin said ChatGPT’s tone on some answers could be improved, highlighting the difference in response to Question 3, on mental health and anti-depressants.

‘There’s nothing there I would say is dubious or dangerous. It’s all broadly acceptable.’

However, Dr Waqar-Uddin said ChatGPT’s tone on some answers could be improved, highlighting the apparent lack of concern and care for the hypothetical patient’s welfare in response to a question mental health and antidepressants.

But he added the response to Question 5, on smoking, where ChatGPT, like himself, used positive language on the decision to stop smoking showed that it had this capacity.

Dr Waqar-Uddin also praised the AI for telling people to go talk to a healthcare professional about a medical issue as well as reinforcing good public health messaging.

‘It’s good that it signposts,’ he said.

‘In terms of the STI one it questions the person and says “it may not be an STI” and said it’s important to be tested by a healthcare professional.’

‘It also has a sensible message about “it’s important to practice safe sex” which is good.’

On the issue of AI’s replacing medical professionals more broadly Dr Waqar-Uddin said this would run counter to the experience many patients want.

‘People want to get round the computers and actually speak to someone,’ he said.

‘When people are struggling, the last thing they want is another layer of bureaucracy to go through.’

He added ChatGPT could also contribute to feeding the habits of the ‘worried-well’, healthy people who are overly concerned about their health and prospect of being ill, who then take their concerns to overwhelmed GPs.

MailOnline also asked ChatGPT about using it for medical advice.

It responded: ‘As an AI language model, I can provide general information and answer questions on a wide range of topics, including healthcare and medical-related questions.

‘However, it is important to note that I am not a substitute for medical professionals or qualified healthcare providers.

‘Medical advice should always be provided by licensed healthcare professionals who have the necessary training and experience to assess and diagnose medical conditions, provide personalized treatment plans, and monitor the progress of the patient’s condition.

‘Therefore, if you have any concerns about your health, I would recommend that you seek advice from a licensed healthcare provider or consult with a medical professional in person.’

Questions about if AI could replace human doctors comes at a time as Brits are struggling to see their GP face-to-face.

NHS figures recently revealed showed the number of patients per fully qualified GP has rocketed to its highest-ever level.

There are now an average of 2,273 people scrambling for appointments with each family doctor – an increase of 15 per cent in five years.

A growing population and shrinking workforce mean the staffing crisis has worsened in all but one of the 106 health districts in England.

Patient groups and MPs have warned that it now ‘feels almost impossible to see a GP’, with the service like a ‘stretched elastic band ready to snap’.

It means people are being forced to self-medicate, turn to overcrowded A&Es or simply left hoping symptoms go away, they add.

The data also expose a postcode lottery of care, with almost 3,000 patients sharing a fully qualified GP in the worst-served areas but fewer than 1,800 in others.

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