Chest Pain: Physician versus AI. Who Wins?

Chest Pain: Physician versus AI. Who Wins?

In the realm of healthcare, particularly at Coupet Quality Clinic, we prioritize a personalized, compassionate approach to diagnosing and treating our patients. With the phenomenon of artificial intelligence (AI) now flooding every aspect of our work and our lives, healthcare professionals such as myself are forced to carefully consider where the use of AI helps us and where it does not.

Today, in the context of the AI conversation, I want to delve into a critical aspect of medical diagnosis that often presents itself in our clinic: chest pain. 

This discussion isn't just about symptoms; it's about understanding the depth and complexity of medical diagnostics and the role of technology in this space.

The Initial Assessment

The Initial Assessment

When a patient presents with chest pain, the first step toward treatment involves a series of targeted questions. 

  • Where is the pain located? 
  • What kind of pain is it?
  • Is it sharp or dull? 
  • How long does the pain last?
  • What exacerbates it?
  • What, if anything, provides relief? 

These inquiries form the cornerstone of our initial assessment. While artificial intelligence (AI) can replicate this questioning process, the nuances of chest pain assessment extend far beyond a simple Q&A.

Beyond the Surface

Chest pain can emanate from various sources: the heart, musculoskeletal structures, the esophagus, the stomach, or even something more alarming like a mass. Family history plays a crucial role here; knowing whether heart disease runs in your family can significantly influence the diagnostic process. 

The skilled doctor can probe, ask follow-up questions, look for clues in patient responses and body language, and understand the subtleties of symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or shortness of breath. AI  cannot perform this kind of intuitive, comprehensive assessment yet. 

Special Populations and the Complexity of Symptoms

Women and individuals with diabetes represent special populations in cardiac health. Their symptoms can be atypical, making the diagnostic process even more intricate. This complexity often requires a bespoke approach, something that AI, with its current limitations, struggles to provide. This discernment, this ability to read between the lines and connect seemingly unrelated dots, sets a physician apart from an algorithm.

The Art of Gathering Medical Histories

The Art of Gathering Medical Histories

Gathering a patient's medical history is an art form grounded in years of training and experience. It's not just about inputting data; it's about understanding context, recognizing patterns, and, sometimes, reading what's not being said. Some patients are not forthcoming about their symptoms and the doctor needs to know how to elicit the information that will enable him or her to treat the patient effectively. The phrase "garbage in, garbage out" is apt here; the quality of the diagnosis is directly related to the quality of the information gathered, a process that AI has yet to master.

Cultural Nuances and Compassionate Care

Every patient is unique, not just in their symptoms but in how they communicate them. Cultural background, education level, and even body language play significant roles in the diagnostic process. These are aspects of patient care that AI cannot fully grasp. Moreover, the compassion and empathy that physicians offer, the bedside manner that can often be as healing as the treatment itself, remain beyond the reach of technology.

A Case in Point

Let me share a personal experience highlighting the irreplaceable value of the human touch in medicine. 

A patient of mine once described his chest pain as pain in "the son." At first, I thought I was misunderstanding his Haitian Creole. I quickly realized that wasn’t the issue. It was only through understanding his cultural and Catholic background that I could decode this description. I realized that when, as a Catholic, he “crossed” himself, he touched the central part of his chest to acknowledge Jesus Christ, God’s Son. His chest pain was occurring in that “Son” area—right in the middle of his chest, and that’s how he described it. 

Could AI have figured that out? I think not. This level of understanding and connection is something AI cannot replicate.

Embracing Technology Responsibly

Embracing Technology Responsibly

While I champion the responsible use of technology and AI to support physicians, especially in administrative tasks, it's crucial to remember that these tools should augment, not replace, the human element in healthcare. At Coupet Quality Clinic, we believe in leveraging technology to enhance patient care while maintaining the personal touch that defines our practice.

Dr. Sidney Coupet

The People’s Doctor

P.S. February is American Heart Month. Heed the CDC: “Listen to your heart. Raise your voice. Protect your health.” Got chest pain? Talk to me. 


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