The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in emerging sectors is growing at a rapid pace. San Francisco-based OpenAI’s ChatGPT was one such innovation which was made available to the public for free use on November 30, 2022.
ChatGPT is a software application tool that has captured the imagination of the world the moment it has hit the market, mainly because of its ability to mimic human-like conservation relying on the prompts it is fed.
Public response was staggering. As many as a million plus users signed into ChatGPT within five days of its launch as a test of its amazing capabilities, observed Sam Altman, co-founder and CEO of OpenAI.
What is ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is a language model that allows you to have human-like question and answer sessions with a chatbot, which in turn is designed to respond and provide information on a wide range of topics.
In response to prompts, ChatGTP can generate quality articles, essays, jokes and also poems in response to prompts.
From a user’s perspective, all one needs to do is to type a question, and then ChatGPT responds, usually within seconds, with an excellent answer that seems to have originated from a very knowledgeable source.
This is a massive paradigm shift for the user who usually spends hours searching for relative material on the web to generate quality content, something which ChatGPT delivers in a trice, based on the input and request.
Will ChatGPT be your next online therapist?
No one can suggest replacing a compassionate human healthcare professional with a probability driven AI tool, but despite that plenty of users are seeking mental info through chatbots as they like the accessibility and low cost of an onscreen text box.
As a result, some users are filling out forms online with accounts of their experiences casting ChatGPT as their therapist. Though ChatGPT is said to provide advice in a novel way, the question is should you accept it, especially when it pertains to something so critical like mental healthcare?
ChatGPT is a proven useful tool for writing professional letters and researching on various subjects. We don’t know how well it can address mental health concerns. So what will happen when people try to access an ad-hoc therapist?
Flora Sadri, medical director at Psychiatry Health, an addiction treatment facility based in Boston, is of the opinion that chatbots can become an effective online therapy tool in two key ways.
Since CBT, she explains, is a form of talk therapy that treats people by altering the way they think to manage mental health, chatbots too can provide users with similar automated on-demand support. Although many online therapy sites offer text based therapy, it is rarely available 24/7 and responses are usually very slow – which is something an automated system can certainly help with.
These chatbots can be a source of additional support and guidance to those who are already getting therapy and also to those who have none or limited access to traditional therapy services. On the flip side, ChatGPT creator OpenAI avers that its models are not tuned to provide medical information and users who turn to it for therapeutic online help are doing so at their own risk.
Pros of ChatGPT in Healthcare
One of the major advantages of ChatGPT is that it can offer support to the user anytime from anywhere, 24/7.ChatGPT users can reach out for assistance whenever they need it, rather than having to wait for an appointment for their next therapy session.
ChatGPT also has the potential to enhance therapy outcomes. This can be done by providing the therapist with valuable insights into their client’s emotions and thought patterns in order to tailor treatment plans to every client’s unique needs and challenges, so as to make more progress in therapy sessions.
ChatGPT can be extremely useful in generating medical histories and help streamline the process of maintaining medical records. Doctors and nurses can dictate notes and ChatGPT will automatically summarize the key details like symptoms, diagnosis and ultimately treatment.
For some patients, medication management could be a challenge, especially if they have been prescribed multiple meds. ChatGPT can be extremely helpful in providing reminders, dosage instructions, and potential side-effects to help patients to manage their medications.
Finally, ChatGPT also has the potential to change the way therapists understand and serve their clients. Language patterns help identify emotions and generate personalized responses which in turn assist the therapist to provide effective support and guidance.
ChatGPT in healthcare could have serious implications as well
One professional in the field asserted that the ChatGPT tool could have dangerous implications for the healthcare field, if not used with the proper content.
Carta Healthcare CEO Matt Hollingsworth, in a recent interview, opined that though ChatGPT was an awesome tool, it was after all just a tool. A hammer could be used to drive in a nail or bludgeon a person to death- how you use it is what matters most.
Hollingsworth has years of experience in the healthcare AI space and asserted that the main thing which was worrisome about ChatGTP pertaining to healthcare, is the high level of accessibility the technology affords.
Hollingsworth further pointed out that since most Americans are familiar with chatbots, they feel comfortable using ChatGPT, especially to get a medical diagnosis, whereas the main function of ChatGPT is to produce convincing sound content.
For applications, like creative writing, where accuracy does not matter, ChatGPT is an effective tool, but when people use it for self-diagnosis, where accuracy is critical, the tool could become dangerous because though it may sound authoritative, its response may be factually incorrect and misleading.
AI solutions must therefore be paired with data that is scientific and structured in order to draw conclusions. Tesla CEO Elon Musk also warned that “we are not far from dangerously strong AI” even though he was an early backer of OpenAI.
Serife Tekin, a professor in mental health ethics at the University of Texas says the hype and promise are way ahead of the research that shows its effectiveness”. Algorithms are not yet tuned to mimic the complex human emotions, leave alone the emulation of empathetic care.
Further, she was of the opinion the risk involved when teenagers attempt AI-driven therapy. Should they find it lacking, they may turn away from the real thing with a human being and avoid treatment altogether.
What needs to be done?
Here are some ways to improve ChatGPT and boost user satisfaction before implementing it into online mental healthcare.
- Make ChatGPT more empathetic:
ChatGPT may be efficient in a number of cases, but as with automated devices, users feel a lack of empathy when engaging with them. Content centres should aim at capturing the sentiments of the user through conversation flow and response to sentiments.
This will enable them to figure out the emotional circumstances where chatbots are not doing well and train them to exhibit satisfactory empathetic behavior.
- Plan the chatbot to meet customer satisfaction.
After gathering information about potential users, plan the type of chatbot and what the bot will achieve to meet the expectations of the customer. Select a platform and build a bot around it for the best user experience. Check the chatbot and monitor its activity from time to time for improved user engagement.
With proper management, ChatGPT could be an invaluable tool in clinical research, but only if one is mindful of the potential risks that may arise from its usage and at the same time ensuring transparency and accountability in its use.
Having said that, like other AI systems, ChatGPT has its limitations and challenges. Further testing, therefore, is the need of the hour, to help achieve widespread use in the field of healthcare.
Therapy is essentially about understanding and connecting with people, for which chatbots have fairly limited capabilities, which we are yet to come to grips with.
These platforms may remember information from earlier conversations, but they will be unable to replicate the personalized high quality care that only a professional therapist can provide.