We have written extensively about the series of breakthroughs artificial intelligence and machine learning have achieved so far in the medical field. Be it deep learning revamping the popular electronic health records (EHR) systems, convolutional neural networks assisting the analysis of gastrointestinal bleeding in time with better diagnosis, or even stopping human ageing altogether — these developments show us how AI could leapfrog conventional medical setting to a whole new level.
With AI extending new dimensions in healthcare there comes the question of the hour: Will AI foster a virtual nursing environment and produce the same effect as those of nurses?
The answer to this question lies in considering how well the aspects of nursing are matched to AI technology. In this article, we lay out how this idea of virtual nursing can soon be realised in the near future.
Nursing And The Digital Phenomenon
Over the years, the role of nursing has evolved from merely tending to patients. It has seen nurses getting involved in tasks like monitoring patients health as well as noting down vital data through digital devices. In fact, nurses are the medium between technology and patients in hospitals. They can help pass valuable medical insights in digital devices to doctors who might not be aware of.
On the other hand, with the rise of modern engineering advances such as robotics, nursing witnessed a unique change. Robots slowly started assisting nurses in tasks which required more time and resources. For example, medical robots monitored a patient’s vital statistics thus allowing a nurse to monitor and tend many patients at once.
Another instance would be robots assisting surgical tasks, and helping doctors perform surgeries quickly and efficiently. These remarkable accounts just highlight how medical procedures benefit in terms of cost and time.
If nursing can blend with robotics and nurses can operate digital devices, the possibility of bringing AI in nursing care will be smoother. AI penetration in virtual nursing is already in its nascent stage. For example, Sensely’s “Molly” is an AI-powered nurse avatar. It is being used by the University of California and the UK’s National Health Service to interact with patients, ask them questions about their health, check probable symptoms, and suggests them the right medical care.
This way, AI-based solutions devised for healthcare in general, can also be integrated between interdepartmental entities even more effectively. All in all, a virtual nursing environment is made possible.
Will Decision-Making Be Affected?
The most important aspect to ponder in an AI nursing environment is the prospect of decision-making. Nurses encounter situations that require critical decision-making that are influenced by “evidence, individual values, client choice, theories, clinical judgment, ethics, legislation, regulation, health-care resources and practice environments.”
All of these factors in decision-making are thought through human intuition and experience. AI machines or systems for nursing have to be built in such a way that they reproduce these effects appropriately. However, scaling AI systems to emulate intuition is difficult and it leads to the question of moral reasoning when decisions are automated.
Highlighting on moral reasoning, Professor Gert-Jan C Lokhorst elucidates a wonderful proposition. He says, “Sets of moral standards can be inconsistent, incomplete, or inappropriate in view of other sets of standards; it would therefore desirable that robots equipped with such standards were to some extent able to reason about them — in other words, if they had some capacity for meta-ethical reasoning.”
Therefore, it is not just right or wrong that AI systems should decide, but also the reason why it is right and wrong. That is why, with automated decision-making comes the backdrop of morality and ethics. This is where humans and AI systems have a stark difference.
It is very important to keep this in mind when institutions/government deal in areas concerned with human lives such as nursing.
In healthcare, developments in AI is mostly focussed towards implementation in types of equipments or machines for either clinical monitoring or assisting nurses but not for an autonomous AI. This is because, building a nursing AI in the medical setting is quite difficult to establish since there is always the aspects of ethics and morality.
The concept of virtual nursing can only be idealised if there is a safe, independent AI that relies really less on human intervention. This is the biggest challenge robotics or AI is yet to solve.
As AI becomes more common with technological advances, sectors such as healthcare should try to look into bringing a safe and effective AI system at place. Again, this is true in the case of nursing. While nursing care and technology go hand in hand these days, the application of an independent AI for a virtual caring environment is still to go a long way.