Move over Dr Google – here comes ChatGPT

Public access to sophisticated next-generation AI programs, led by ChatGPT, is opening the way to a new era for patients, carers and even healthcare workers to gain health information – but what are the risks?  

South Australian cancer and digital health experts, led by Flinders University researcher Dr Ash Hopkins, are flagging the need for regulators and healthcare providers to be involved in developing standards for minimum quality of chatbox responses and to raise patient awareness of the limitations of emerging AI assistants.   

Since its launch late last year, there has been a rapid uptake of the powerful artificial intelligence (openAI) platform ChatGPT to formulate interpretable responses to basic fact-based questions as well as answers to more complex clinical questions.  

Dr Ash Hopkins

Its use across an endless number of topics is set to expand with AI currently being tested by Microsoft in its ‘new Bing’ search engine,” says Dr Hopkins, from the Flinders Medical and Health Research Institute.  

The study evaluated the ability of ChatGPT to provide responses to questions commonly asked by patients with cancer on prevalence, prognosis and treatment. The responses were compared against the Google responses.  

“We caution that the ChatGPT responses didn’t provide quality references, will produce only answers to some questions, is not currently kept up to date in real time, and will produce incorrect answers in a ‘confident sounding manner’. 

“The latter is an important required improvement to ensure the virtual assistant can respond with uncertainty when it is not sure of its answers.” 

Dr Hopkins says ChatGPT “has a remarkable ability to formulate responses to complex questions about cancer in a way that often appears less likely to cause alarm than Google’s feature snippet”.   

“Overall, the responses demonstrates that ChatGPT generally produces easily understandable answers which are comparable to Google’s feature snippet. 

“Notably, the ChatGPT responses often had contextualisations which appeared to minimise the likelihood of alarm, while practical recommendations – such as speaking to your doctor – were also often added.” 

The article, AI chatbots will revolutionize how cancer patients access information: ChatGPT represents a paradigm-shift (2023) by Ashley M Hopkins, Jessica M Logan, Ganessan Kichenadasse and Michael J Sorich, has been published in JNCI Cancer Spectrum (Oxford University Press) DOI: 10.1093/jncics/pkad010.

Read more in The Conversation: We asked ChatGPT and Dr Google the same questions about cancer. Here’s what they said

Posted in
College of Medicine and Public Health Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute