Is ChatGPT in your future?

January 29, 2023
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First an apology. I’m still putting the final touches on what is sure to be a controversial program that I mentioned last week. It’s about how to reduce Insurance dependence.   I’ll have it for you next week.

In the meantime, there’s been a lot of buzz about how ChatGPTand perhaps other forms of AI can be used in practice. As you might imagine, I have some thoughts.

The allure of such programs will be stronger amongst dentists than most for the following reasons.

1. Dentists love new technology, especially those that make their lives easier.
2. AI promises to enhance communications, something most Introverts shy away from. Yes, the majority of dentists are introverts.
3. AI can write better than most dentists.
4. It promises to replace personnel or supplement training, which cost time and money.
5. It promises to streamline processes that can save time and money.
6. It can help with marketing efforts (another form of communication).
7. Delivers more predictable outcomes without the human drama.

Ultimately, AI will be adopted when it proves to save time, money or both. This speed of refinement and adoption will follow Moore’s Law as described in his book “Crossing TheChasm.”

We’re currently at the ‘early adoption’ phase but the speed of technology adoption is accelerating exponentially, as Covid, inflation and employment shortages are accelerators.

Many will ask the question; Could AI do X, Y or Z?

The more appropriate question is; SHOULD this technology be deployed, and where?

This is not a new question. It’s been asked in many forms for millennia. From 1940-1995, in his Robot and Foundation series, Isaac Asimov explored the question of how humans interact with AI technology. No one, to my knowledge has fully explored this in the dental realm.

Mary comes into AI Dental office; she goes up to the kiosk and fills out a questionnaire which includes the reason she’s there. Mary lost a filling. Mary is directed to enter a scanner that takes appropriate diagnostics, which results in a diagnosis. Mary has a defect in tooth #3. It has no pulpal pathology and requires a restoration.

We already have AI that can outperform radiologists in diagnosing pathology from images. Mary is directed by a voice into a robotically controlled unit that administers anesthesia, removes what remains of an old filling, scans for decay, and prepares the tooth for an appropriate restoration. A digital impression is taken, a cad/cam restoration designed, made, fitand inserted. The bite is checked, and Mary is dismissed. Before she walks out the door, her insurance is notified of the procedure.

The entire process is performed without the presence of a human or the sound of a human voice.

Could DENTISTS and their teams be replaced?

The answer is undoubtedly YES!

While not now, at some point the myriad of technologies currently available could be brought together to replace the dental practitioner.

The dentist as a diagnostician and provider can be replaced.

There’s no question that a scenario as described above would be exceedingly cost effective. There’s no calling in sick. There’s no childcare. There’s no management or accountability worries. There’s no shaky hands or slips. All that’s required are software upgrades and maintenance.

Yes, it COULD happen.

Once these systems have been proven to yield superior results, the process will be readily promoted by non-dental groups such as Insurers and Government. As the cost of healthcare rises, and the access remains problematic, the pressure to incorporate AI will increase.

Will such a non-human delivery system be acceptable?

Too many, because of the current high cost and the deterioration of customer service and satisfaction, it will.

There will always be those who will resist, either because the mere thought of replacing human beings is repugnant, or because a robotic experience is devoid of human touch and caring. Some people will want someone to talk to and build a relationship. And, while Isaac Asimov might argue that robots might be able to do that as well, that’s quite a long way off.

ChatGPT might provide great content. But communication between humans is more complex than the written or spoken word. Non-verbal cues are more important.

The discussion is not theoretic. Are your patients having exceptional, human-centric experiences? If not, could you be inadvertently contributing to robotization of our profession?

The Coffee With The Coach program (which is now called THE LIBERATED PRACTICE) provides knowledge, inspiration and support and is geared towards giving the entire team the resources needed to deliver such high-touch, human-centric, patient experiences.

While I love helping LIBERATE dentists by making their practices more productive and profitable, I also want to prevent them from becoming obsolete. The key is EXCEPTIONAL PATIENT EXPERIENCES.

When it comes to AI and technology, be careful what you ask for…you might get more than you bargained for.

Here’s to a more human touch,

Michael

P.S. This blog was not nor will it ever be written by ChatGPT or any other AI.

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Dr. Michael Goldberg is one of the leading educators on dental practice management in the United States.

Michael ran and sold a prestigious group practice in Manhattan and has been on Faculty at Columbia University and New York-Presbyterian Medical Center for 30 years including Director of the GPR program and Director of the course on Practice Management.

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