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The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically reshaped the delivery of healthcare, with an accelerated transition towards virtual care and telemedicine.1 This transition has culminated in a significant escalation of electronic patient messaging, thereby amplifying the workload of healthcare professionals, who already face escalating rates of burnout.2 Considering a large number of physicians experiencing at least one symptom of burnout, it is critical to address the impact of patient messaging to safeguard healthcare delivery quality.3
A myriad of strategies has been suggested to mitigate the burden of electronic messaging, including limiting notifications, billing for responses, or outsourcing responses to lesser-trained support staff.4 However, these strategies risk limiting high-quality healthcare access. For example, notifying patients about potential charges for messaging can lead to decreased message frequency and shorter clinician exchanges.5 The advent of artificial intelligence (AI) assistants offers a promising solution to this issue, although a comprehensive examination of their capacity to respond effectively and empathetically to patient inquiries remains due.
ChatGPT, a new generation AI technology, has been powered by advancements in large language models and has been lauded for its ability to generate near-human-quality text on a broad array of topics. Despite not being specifically designed for healthcare applications, the potential of ChatGPT to address patient queries warrants further exploration.6 Recent research7 aimed to assess whether AI chatbot assistants could offer responses to patient queries that matched the quality and empathy of physicians’ responses. The results indicate that AI assistants, such as ChatGPT, could potentially alleviate the strain of electronic patient messaging on healthcare professionals without compromising the quality or empathy of responses. This could lead to reductions in physician burnout and improvements in patient satisfaction, both vital goals in healthcare delivery.
ChatGPT could further support clinicians by liberating them to concentrate on more …
Collaborators EC is funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) Doctoral Training Partnership in Biomedical Sciences.
Contributors All authors contributed significantly to this commentary. BL conceived the idea for the commentary, conducted the literature review and drafted the manuscript. BL provided critical revisions, adding important intellectual content related to the application of AI in healthcare. EC contributed to the discussion on the challenges of AI implementation and provided further insight into the ethical considerations. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.