First Global Survey of Psychiatrists on the Impact of Artificial Intelligence

  • Only 4% believe AI is likely to make psychiatrists’ jobs obsolete
  • Only 17% believe AI is likely to replace human empathy

Researchers from major academic centers partnered with Sermo to field the study through Sermo’s global panel of HCPs

New York, New York – July 30, 2019 – Sermo, the leading global social platform for physicians and largest health care professional survey company, has released a report in partnership with noted psychiatry and health technology researchers at Duke University School of Medicine and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, about the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) on the field of psychiatry.

Partnering with Sermo were Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, professor in the departments of Psychiatry and Medicine at Duke and Dr. Charlotte Blease, research fellow in General Medicine at Harvard.

The first-of-its-kind study surveyed 791 psychiatrists across 22 countries. Respondents were asked to assess the likelihood that future technology would be able to replace — not just assist — human doctors in performing complex psychiatric tasks.

The most striking findings of the survey were:

  • Only 4% of psychiatrists felt that future technology would make their jobs obsolete.
  • Only 17% believed technology is likely to replace a human’s role in providing empathetic care.
  • More female (48%) psychiatrists than males (35%) were uncertain that the benefits of AI/ML would outweigh risks.
  • More U.S. psychiatrists (46%) than those in RoW (32%) were uncertain that the benefits of AI/ML would outweigh the risks.

The majority of psychiatrists also indicated that future technology would be unlikely to replace human doctors for complex tasks such as a mental status exam (67%), assessing risk for violence (58%) and determining need for hospitalization (55%).

There were only two tasks that the majority felt technology would likely replace:

  • Providing patient documentation such as updating medical records (75%)
  • Synthesizing patient information to reach diagnoses (54%)

“It is time for us to stop thinking about AI as a battle of machines versus humans. We need to instead focus on how AI can optimize and improve clinicians’ abilities to deliver better care,” Doraiswamy said.

The survey provides the first global snapshot of the current state of thinking among practicing psychiatrists about the risks and benefits of future technologies.

The skepticism and uncertainty expressed by doctors could be due to several reasons. One possibility is they are cautious of the hype around AI and may be placing high value on human interaction and personalized professional analysis. Another possible explanation could be that respondents are underestimating the pace of technological change.

“The findings from this survey also raise questions about the preparedness of the profession to navigate technological change in the delivery of patient care,” Blease said.

While doctors were skeptical about the prospects of AI/ML replacing them, one in two psychiatrists felt that future technologies would significantly transform their jobs. Psychiatrists also predicted that AI/ML could aid in several ways such as more accurate diagnosis, reducing administrative burden, 24/7 monitoring, individualized drug targets to reduce side effects, integration of new streams of data from wearables and genetics, reducing human errors and elucidating etiologies that are opaque to us.

Doctors also identified many ethical and safety concerns of AI. “This should be a high priority for research since even a single line of bad code could have serious repercussions,” cautioned Doraiswamy.

“Partnering with such prestigious researchers on this project was exciting for us,” said Peter Kirk, CEO of Sermo. “We are uniquely positioned to tap into the global medical community to hear firsthand from those who live and breathe the profession each day – psychiatrists themselves.”

Methodology:

Sermo conducted a pilot survey of psychiatrists globally from April to May, 2019 to understand their opinion as to whether or not future technology, specifically AI/ML, would be able to replace the average psychiatrist in performing 10 specific psychiatric tasks. If a psychiatrist felt that future technology was likely to replace a given task, the survey also measured their opinion on about how many years from now such a capacity might emerge. Psychiatrists were also queried on their opinions about the benefits and risks of future technologies in mental health and the impact on their daily work. Survey limitations include sampling bias, inability to deduce causality from opinion polls, confounding variables not measured, and other factors. The full scientific report may be viewed at arXiv, the leading e-print archive for research papers in AI/ML. The report can be accessed at: https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.12386

About Sermo:

Sermo is a global social platform for physicians that fosters impactful peer-to-peer collaboration and discussions through meaningful insights, data, and trends. It is the most trusted global platform for physicians with over 800,000 fully verified and licensed physicians across 150 countries. The platform enables doctors to anonymously talk real-world medicine, review treatment options via our proprietary Drug Ratings platform, collectively solve patient cases, and earn honorarium from surveys. Through Sermo’s unique community, pharmaceutical and healthcare partners can drive physician awareness and gain deep understanding of brand perceptions to benefit the medical community at large.

Media Contacts:

Niki Franklin
Racepoint Global on behalf of Sermo
+1 617 624 3264
sermo@racepointglobal.com