Science fiction stories have been playing with our cultural imaginations for generations now. Jules Verne in his famous 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and many more. Each toy with philosophies around complex social economics. Our abilities to conceptualize a future with advanced technologies accompanies the desire for greater prosperity, and comfort in our daily lives, but forecasting only positive results without considering the long-term consequences can be detrimental.

Discussions around artificial intelligence (AI), its efficacies and potentials are near constant in scientific communities today. Regardless of your background of study, everyone seems to be familiar with the premise of a potential, cataclysmic end. We have The Terminator movie series to thank for that at the very least.

However strange, since that movie’s release, an AI induced, apocalyptic world war appears to go hand in hand with casual conversation about such advancements. However, when sound, informed minds prevail and the panic induced screams fade, where does that leave us? How is our society currently being helped by AI? More specifically, how has, and will, AI impact medical care in the future?

This article seeks to explore the potential impacts of artificial intelligence on nursing practices in the future by considering current and future challenges to the industry. To do so I will first offer a definition and clarification of what “AI” is — the concept is much broader in implication than human-hunting robots— then provide some current, commonplace examples in the medical world, predictions for the future and the challenges that inspire their development.

A Definition

Artificial intelligence is, broadly, the intentionally designed mimicry of human intelligence and ability through machines, and computer systems. There are, generally speaking, three outcomes desired from its implementation: learning, reasoning, and self-correction.

Learning seeks to gather data and then turn that into actions; reasoning, hones a computer’s ability to select the best coding to enact the desired action; self-correction, measures and adjusts that code to continuously improve actions. Overall, each of those outcomes can produce significant results in the quantification and implementation of new awarenesses and procedures which may otherwise be missed by biased, tired, or distracted human minds.

Present Uses of AI in Medicine

Artificial Intelligence has little bounds in its ability to enhance the usefulness of digital and analog medical services. The assistance of computer generated measurements has been a great aid to human studies in many fields of medicine, such as patient diagnosis and prognosis, as well as the identification of suitable drugs for treatments. Contributions to cancer research, deepening developments in genetic medicine, and imaging analysis are also currently utilized.

In office situations, AI systems are already streamlining appointment scheduling, supporting chat features online, ease of access to medical records, as well as translation and transcription. In light of the medical field’s current challenges, AI’s helpful abilities need not be overlooked.

Predicted Uses of AI

There are many people who are not just optimistic, but fighting for the adoption of AI in healthcare. Much of what is being introduced are improvements to current systems and procedures, such as predictive analytics, massive digital infrastructures, and further improvements in patient/staff interactions.

Medication management and drug creation also have a place. What’s important to note is that each of the present and predicted uses are all purposed to overcome the challenges in healthcare.

Some Current Challenges to the Medical Service

What is perhaps the most concerning and long-standing issue in the nursing field is the consistency of high rates of open positions nationwide. Long before COVID was even a phrase that auto corrected in your phone, the healthcare industry has been trying to overcome staff shortages.

Another challenge administrators are trying to stay ahead of in the industry is the historical lack of diversity in the workplace. Such disparity has many causations, but it’s worth mentioning because population growth is projected to shift the racial diversity in hospitals— both for caregivers and those in need of care.

Quality healthcare is every human right, regardless of race or gender, but everyday challenges like language barriers demand a workforce that is as diverse as the community it is serving. Sadly, the loss of nearly 100,000 nurses under the age of 35 from 2021-22— in combination with projected shortages to spread state by state through 2030 — is a very bleak outlook for appropriately meeting those basic care standards.

These, along with rising healthcare costs, general human error, and poorly designed care systems have both patients and healthcare professionals strained. The use of AI can help with all of those issues.

Basic Challenges in the Medical world Today.

The adaptation and implementation of AI services are inevitable in our rapidly evolving technological world, in fact it is and already has reshaped healthcare as we know it.  Despite these results, caution and a measured, open mind should be utilized when deciding how to route the risks of AI use. Fortunately, there are responsible, intelligent people who work to avoid an apocalypse.

There will be impacts on nursing practices in the future, the question that should be asked is, “What will a partnership with these technologies do to enhance human effectiveness?” While there is, and will always be, speculation that human beings could be completely replaced in certain roles in the medical field, machines will always be lacking.

What should be remembered is that no computer system or machine will ever be able to replace the care, love, and compassion of a human being who can relate to the experience of those who are suffering.

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