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"Artificial intelligence and the future of psychiatry: Insights from a global physician survey"

by Doraiswamy, P Murali; Blease, Charlotte; Bodner, Kaylee (2020)


BACKGROUND: Futurists have predicted that new autonomous technologies, embedded with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), will lead to substantial job losses in many sectors disrupting many aspects of healthcare. Mental health appears ripe for such disruption given the global illness burden, stigma, and shortage of care providers. OBJECTIVE: To characterize the global psychiatrist community's opinion regarding the potential of future autonomous technology (referred to here as AI/ML) to replace key tasks carried out in mental health practice. DESIGN: Cross sectional, random stratified sample of psychiatrists registered with Sermo, a global networking platform open to verified and licensed physicians. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: We measured opinions about the likelihood that AI/ML tools would be able to fully replace - not just assist - the average psychiatrist in performing 10 key psychiatric tasks. Among those who considered replacement likely, we measured opinions about how many years from now such a capacity might emerge. We also measured psychiatrist's perceptions about whether benefits of AI/ML would outweigh the risks. RESULTS: Survey respondents were 791 psychiatrists from 22 countries representing North America, South America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. Only 3.8 % of respondents felt it was likely that future technology would make their jobs obsolete and only 17 % felt that future AI/ML was likely to replace a human clinician for providing empathetic care. Documenting and updating medical records (75 %) and synthesizing information (54 %) were the two tasks where a majority predicted that AI/ML could fully replace human psychiatrists. Female- and US-based doctors were more uncertain that the benefits of AI would outweigh risks than male- and non-US doctors, respectively. Around one in 2 psychiatrists did however predict that their jobs would be substantially changed by AI/ML. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings provide compelling insights into how physicians think about AI/ML which in turn may help us better integrate technology and reskill doctors to enhance mental health care.

Key Passage

The World Economic Forum’s 2019 report titled “Empowering 8 Billion Minds”highlighted that“the burden of mental illness, in terms of human suffering, is both catastrophic and growing”and that“in the 36 largest countries where treatment is not accessible to everyone, mental health conditions have resulted in over 12 billion days of lost productivity”. It noted that mental health focused apps are among the fastest growing sectors in the global digital health market and called for the adoption of technologies, in an ethical, empathetic and evidence based manner, to enable better mental health for all. (p.4)


Autonomous Agents, Deep Learning, Empathy, Mental Health, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Psychology, Psychiatry, Mental Health


AI and Counselling

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