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AI cannot replace the essential elements of the doctor patient relationship

Responding to a study that claims Babylon’s artificial intelligence (AI) programme is as effective at diagnosing conditions as a practising GP1, Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said:

“AI may have a place in the tools doctors use to support and treat patients, but it cannot replace the essential elements of the doctor-patient relationship which is at the heart of medicine. 

“This study vastly underestimates the reason why a patient visits their GP and what they expect from a consultation. For elderly patients or those with a number of complex conditions, diagnosis tools such as these will be completely unsuitable.

“Medicine is far more than diagnosis, and is certainly more than an algorithm.

“Technology has great potential to provide tools that can assist clinicians and patients, but it will never replace the physical presence and interaction with a GP, who has skills developed over years of training and experience in the consultation room.

“This study represents an over-simplistic and crude measure of what it means to be a good doctor, which is about so much more than passing an exam. Furthermore, the test used within this study was not the full MRCGP, which includes a Clinical Skills Assessment that tests the doctor’s performance in a face-to-face consultation environment. Therefore, we should be wary of any misleading conclusions made as a result of this research.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. Visit the Babylon website for details.

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