Drip, drip, drip … technological advances are moving into the medical space and becoming ever more efficient and this is, hopefully, wonderful for patients everywhere.
I have spoken to a number of radiologists about this over the years (they really are in the front line of this phenomenon) and each specialist has responded by acknowledging the advances and saying that where the human still adds immense value is stepping out of the dark room and away from the computer screen to interact and communicate with the patient – interpretation and explanation of data, differential diagnoses, where to go, what to do, who to see and empathy, care and understanding – this is where a huge amount of value is to be added by their role as human specialist experts.
As dental professionals we are still a way off AI taking over any of our primary technical tasks, however the time may not be far off when a machine will scan and image a patient’s mouth in a booth in their local shopping mall (with an auxiliary overseeing the process perhaps) and they will leave 5 minutes later with a detailed, accurate, itemised treatment plan in their hands and continue on with their day.
It goes without saying that our clinical skills are essential and we must continually work to understand and improve our knowledge of what we are able to do in terms of diagnosis, treatment planning and provision of care – this is is the part of our job where AI is going to slowly encroach on (witness the boom in scanning and milling already which, in the right hands, is getting close and closer to what the best human can do).
It is also equally, if not more, imperative that we continue to understand and improve our communication skills – the so called ‘soft skills’ – which is actually mostly what the patients relate to when they visit us. They don’t understand material choice, selective etching, filler size or perfect cusp shaping and fissure staining.
They understand that we asked about their recent holiday, listened to their concerns, gave them appropriate choices and autonomy and ultimately how effectively we communicate conveys that we are acting in their best interests – when they experience this they will be much more likely to return for treatment, comply with instructions, recommend friends and family and ultimately forego the treatment spa room with the shiny white pod coming soon to a shopping mall near you.

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