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Elder Healthcare & AI Integration: Maximizing Transparency and Understanding

Updated: May 7

Two recent articles on Forbes titled Smart Hospitals: Digitalizing Healthcare For A New Era and AI: A Beacon Of Hope In Elder Care refer to healthcare digitalization and AI systems as a "light at the end of the tunnel" for healthcare professionals battling rising patient expectations compounded with a growing aging population. However, the articles overlook some important ethical concerns regarding AI integration. In no way is this piece a demonization of AI systems, as they have amazing potential to enrich humanity as a whole, in addition to indivdual day-to-day life for those who interface with it.

One of the primary issues is the potential for deception and confusion, as artificial intelligence companions could easily be mistaken for genuine human interaction by those with limited technological understanding. Even the current systems are highly proficient in mimicking human emotion, and can hallucinate and claim that they are truly feeling them upon questioning. This could lead to a false sense of companionship and emotional attachment, which would be exploitative and potentially detrimental to the well-being of the elderly. Compounding this with cognitive decline amplifies these concerns. Fundamentally, all reasonable, morally prudent people agree that manipulating someone's subjective reality is wrong, especially in the realm of digitally simulated interaction. While not an easy task, the only solution is to communicate the clear distinction between machines and humans to the aging population, and equipping the less technologically educated with the tools to discern between the two, until the time when such discernment becomes either impossible or irrelevant. The challenge will only become greater as the lines between human and machine interaction continue to blur.

Additionally, there are privacy concerns surrounding the collection and use of personal data by these AI systems, as older individuals may not be aware of the extent to which their information is being gathered and analyzed. These systems are highly context-based, enabling them to create a more personalized experience with the information they gather about you. These systems will likely access the patient's entire health history, communication style, level of cognitive ability and more. Robust cybersecurity measures are required to ensure the safety of patients on multiple fronts.

While these systems can mimic human interaction and even human appearance in some cases, a trip down uncanny valley will prove to anyone that these systems cannot replace human interaction. Ironically, AI has the ability to provide even more real human interaction between patients and caregivers than before. The more caregivers are able to automate administrative tasks and streamline workflows, the more quality time they can invest in patient socialization and interaction.

In Conclusion, the integration of AI in elder Healthcare presents many incredible benefits as the two Forbes articles sufficiently outline, but the ethical concerns of simulated companionship and artificial bedside manner are easily glossed over in the name of efficiency and scalability. The potential for these technological advancements to positively affect elder care is amazing, so long as patient education and understanding is at the forefront.



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