Empathic Doctors

Can ChatGPT be perceived as more empathic than doctors? –> YES!..

I stumbled upon a very interesting study some weeks ago, published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA).

The study was conducted using questions from Reddit’s r/AskDocs. A total of 195 interactions from October 2022 were randomly selected where a verified physician had responded to a public query. These original queries were then entered into a fresh session with ChatGPT.

The results were quite revealing. A team of licensed healthcare professionals evaluated the anonymized and randomly ordered responses from both the chatbot and the physicians. Their task was to decide which response was better, and to judge both the quality of the information provided and the empathy demonstrated. The results are stunning:

“Of the 195 questions and responses, evaluators preferred chatbot responses to physician responses in 78.6% […] of the 585 evaluations.”
“Chatbot responses were also rated significantly more empathetic than physician responses.”
“The proportion of responses rated empathetic or very empathetic (≥4) was higher for chatbot than for physicians […] This amounted to 9.8 times higher prevalence of empathetic or very empathetic responses for the chatbot.”

This could be a hard pill to swallow, but I think it’s needed to take this research seriously and not look the other way. Especially if you are on ‘Team Human’. Don’t ridicule these results by slurring out “AI hype”, “It’s just a computer”, etc.. Don’t take the easy way, but dig deeper: what do these results mean for the future of healthcare and ‘being human’ as is often wondered…

And of course, at the same time it’s definitely not the full story of the doctor-client relationship. And it’s definitely not the end of doctors. Empathy should not just lead to ‘being nice and caring’. It could also be important to confront someone when needed. And it’s important who is saying the message.

The NYTimes published a related article today about doctors using chatgpt to improve their communication. That could be an important way forward.

While doing this it’s important to keep it authentic. E.g. carefefully examine the answer of chatgpt on truthfulness and meaning. Integrate some parts that feel congruent with your own feelings, thoughts and worldview and disregard other parts. Or just use it as an inspiration. Weigh the words carefully. This is just normal human behavior in my opinion. We do it all the time, just like you would with the advice of someone.

Can ChatGPT be perceived as more empathic than doctors? –> Yes
Do we need to keep exploring and examine things further? –> Always!

I strongly recommend reading the paper @ https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2804309