Can AI replace white collar jobs?

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Let’s start with the definition of "REPLACE," from Merriam-Webster: To restore to a former place or position (e.g. replace cards in a file); To take the place of especially as a substitute or successor; To put something new in the place of (e.g. replace a worn carpet).

Now, let’s check the definition of "ENHANCE": To increase or improve in value, quality, desirability, or attractiveness (e.g. enhanced the room with crown molding); To increase or improve (something); To make greater or better (e.g. the products claim to enhance beauty).

Because artificial intelligence is so effective when it comes to matching patterns and automating processes, it’s well-suited to "enhance" many tasks in large organizations. In Healthcare, AI is being utilized to aggregate and organize data to identify trends and patterns. And already, AI is making a difference in our lives:

In a May 2019 study from Nature Medicine, a Google algorithm outperformed six radiologists in determining if patients had lung cancer. The algorithm, which was developed using 42,000 patient scans from a National Institutes of Health clinical trial, detected 5 percent more cancers than its human counterparts and reduced false positives by 11 percent.

A March 2019 study from the American Academy of Ophthalmology found a Google algorithm improved doctors’ ability to accurately diagnose diabetic retinopathy. The algorithm has been tested in India, a country that could benefit from AI screenings since it suffers from a shortage of doctors and ophthalmologists. At Stanford, researchers believe their skin cancer algorithm could even work on a smartphone, empowering people to screen themselves.

AI has helped reduce radiology’s 30 percent error rate. According to a July 2019 AAMC study, a Google skin cancer program looked at about 130,000 images. A dermatologist looks at about 12,000 in his or her lifetime. We know that radiologists (and all types of workers) are busier than ever to keep up with demand. Unfortunately, errors increase with the need to complete things at a faster clip while algorithms can handle a far larger workload than humans, with no additional rate of error.

But does better data simply hasten the loss of jobs for health care professionals? Will nurses, radiologists and pathologists be replaced by smartphone apps or a medical voice assistant? In fact, just the opposite. AI will help healthcare professionals focus more on the actual job and  on the things that can truly impact patient care.

In a May 2019 editorial from the journal Radiology, Curtis P. Langlotz, professor of radiology at the Stanford University Medical Center asserts, "Radiologists are being trained to recognize AI’s shortcomings and capitalize on its strengths. And our radiologists are also trained to detect less-common diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and sickle cell disease." "AI is impressive in identifying horses," he wrote, "but is a long way from recognizing zebras."

Over the next five to ten years, the most successful healthcare professionals will be those who are knowledgeable and eager to participate in data management and integrated diagnosis analysis.

Remember, REPLACE implies a filling of a place once occupied by something lost, destroyed, or no longer usable or adequate. We should never be threatened by the unknown nor by the possibilities of technologies on the horizon. I regard Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a way to ENHANCE (better, enrich, help, improve, perfect, refine, reinforce, strengthen) our profession. Let’s collectively embrace AI so we can continue to transform the digital strategies and services we provide our clients.

Image Credit: Phonlamai Photo / Shutterstock

Todd Chusid is a Digital Strategist at Anexinet Corporation. Todd has a proven, 15-year track record of taking end-to-end ownership and delivering diverse technologies on web, mobile and ecommerce solutions. Todd’s mission is to help clients reimagine, refine, and reinvigorate their business processes, systems, and data to enable more engaging and productive interactions with customers, partners, and employees through digital transformation and mobile devices.

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