For Better or Worse, ChatGPT Is Here to Play

Jeffrey S. Upperman, MD, FACS, and Patrick Meyers, MD

July 10, 2023

Note: The preparation of this article was supported by artificial intelligence (AI), highlighting the collaborative potential between human experts and AI technology.

OpenAI has created ChatGPT, a powerful language model designed to enhance communication and facilitate information exchange in today’s fast-paced world. Trained on vast amounts of text data, ChatGPT generates coherent and contextually relevant responses, making it invaluable for professionals in various fields.

Surgeons, facing critical decisions and time constraints, require precise communication. However, traditional methods like emails and phone calls can fall short in meeting the administrative demands of healthcare. This viewpoint article explores the potential applications of ChatGPT for busy surgeons, highlighting how it can improve communication and knowledge sharing, and how it provides valuable insights.

Surgeons, especially members of the ACS, face numerous challenges related to patient care, research, education, and professional development. Balancing these responsibilities can be overwhelming, leaving little time for effective communication and collaboration—both of which play pivotal roles in local practice settings and are equally important within the greater ACS community. Surgeons must seamlessly communicate with their colleagues, nursing staff, and other healthcare professionals to ensure coordinated and safe patient care.

Moreover, within the ACS community, the exchange of ideas, best practices, and research findings fosters professional growth and drives advancements in the field of surgery. But the challenges of time constraints, geographical distances, and varying schedules may thwart the smooth flow of information and hinder collaborative efforts.

Existing communications tools like electronic health records (EHRs) and traditional messaging systems have limitations such as inefficient communications features. Emails are not conducive to real-time collaboration, and phone calls have limits regarding comprehensive knowledge sharing.

Manual input adds to the administrative burden of surgeons who are already stretched thin by personal, clinical, and academic responsibilities. The rise of EHRs and associated insurance tasks have imposed additional drains on the House of Surgery. Time-consuming documentation and complex billing processes divert attention from patient care and professional development, underscoring the need for streamlined communications tools.

To address these challenges, innovative solutions are crucial to enhancing communication, reducing administrative burdens, and optimizing collaboration for busy surgeons. The subsequent sections of this article will explore how ChatGPT and other large language models (LLM) can help. LLMs are deep learning algorithms that can recognize, summarize, translate, predict, and generate text and other forms of content based on knowledge gained from massive datasets.

ChatGPT or other LLMs may provide clinicians with a powerful tool to access information quickly during busy clinical days. Surgeons often face complex problems that require immediate access to guidelines, research findings, or treatment protocols.

With its vast training data and language understanding capabilities, ChatGPT can offer real-time assistance by generating concise and contextually appropriate responses. This functionality significantly improves decision-making and enhances patient care outcomes.

It is important to recognize that ChatGPT’s responses are based on patterns and correlations learned from its training data. While efforts are made to generate accurate responses, there may be instances in which the information provided is not entirely reliable or up to date.

Surgeons must exercise caution and validate information obtained through ChatGPT with trusted sources like medical literature or expert opinion.

The limitations of ChatGPT stem from its training data and underlying algorithms. It learns from various internet sources that may contain inaccuracies, biases, or outdated information. Consequently, there is a risk of ChatGPT generating responses that are not fully reliable or lack the most recent evidence-based guidance.

Even so, LLMs are valuable tools that can assist surgeons in accessing relevant information efficiently. So to mitigate any limitations, critical thinking and verification using trusted resources are essential. Medical professionals should rely on established medical guidelines, peer-reviewed literature, and consultation with colleagues or experts before implementing ChatGPT information into clinical practice.

By combining ChatGPT’s strengths with surgeons’ expertise and judgment, it is possible to leverage the model’s potential while maintaining a commitment to evidence-based medicine.

ChatGPT and Patient Care

There are many potential future applications of ChatGPT in surgical practice, such as surgical education, telemedicine, and interdisciplinary collaboration. Understanding these possibilities can provide insights into the transformative impact of ChatGPT on surgeons’ professional lives.

By configuring an internal network appropriately, ChatGPT and similar LLMs can assist in retrieving research information, clinical practice guidelines, and case studies. Surgeons and other healthcare providers can leverage ChatGPT to quickly access the latest advancements in surgical research and evidence-based guidelines specific to their field.

By providing specific keywords, ChatGPT helps navigate the vast amount of information within various resources, saving time and effort in searching for valuable clinical knowledge. Surgeons can seek guidance on complex cases, surgical techniques, or treatment recommendations.

It is important to note that the reliability and accuracy of information provided by ChatGPT depend on its training data. Integrating ACS-vetted sources into the training data and deploying ChatGPT within the ACS environment can enhance its ability to retrieve answers from trusted and proprietary sources. This advancement—which has the potential to revolutionize information retrieval and decision support within the ACS community—would require careful considerations and safeguards.

ChatGPT and other generative AI products also can serve as virtual assistants, offering valuable support to ACS members and other healthcare providers in organizing schedules, prioritizing tasks, and staying updated on events and initiatives. Surgeons have diverse responsibilities beyond patient care, including administrative tasks, research commitments, teaching obligations, and leadership roles.

ChatGPT can provide personalized assistance by helping manage schedules, setting reminders, and accessing information related to events, conferences, and initiatives. This support could streamline workflow, improve time management, and promote active engagement within the ACS community.

Moreover, ChatGPT can ease the burden of administrative tasks for surgeon leaders. By offering guidance on workforce management, staffing strategies, and operational efficiencies, ChatGPT supports surgeon leaders in navigating healthcare organizations’ complexities. This technology enables surgeons to focus on delivering quality care while effectively managing their administrative responsibilities.

ChatGPT holds immense potential for real-time information sharing and discussion forums within the ACS community. Surgeons can engage in live discussions, seek opinions, and share knowledge on various surgical topics. By leveraging ChatGPT’s capabilities, ACS members can create virtual spaces for collaborative learning and problem-solving. Real-time interaction encourages timely responses, active participation, and camaraderie among surgeons, regardless of their locations.

Language barriers and complex medical terminology pose challenges in effective communication and collaboration. ChatGPT’s language understanding capabilities help overcome these obstacles. Surgeons from different regions or those with English as a second language can use ChatGPT to bridge the gap and communicate thoughts and ideas more effectively.

Additionally, ChatGPT simplifies complex medical terminology, providing explanations or definitions, while also facilitating understanding and engagement. The integration of LLM platforms like ChatGPT has the potential to facilitate communication and knowledge exchange among diverse communities. This inclusivity promotes global collaboration, diverse perspectives, and advancements in surgical practice worldwide.

Ethical Implications of ChatGPT

As surgeons embrace AI systems like ChatGPT for professional development, it is crucial to address ethical considerations and potential challenges.

One primary concern is the need for appropriate data and human oversight. AI systems rely on data, and the quality, representativeness, and biases within the training data can affect the system’s outputs. Therefore, it is essential to ensure diverse and representative data sources, as well as rigorous vetting and validation processes.

Human oversight is critical to ensure responsible and ethical deployment of AI systems. While ChatGPT provides insights and recommendations, it should not replace human judgment or devalue clinical expertise. Surgeons must exercise critical thinking, validate information from reliable sources, and interpret AI-generated outputs within the context of individual patient needs and healthcare guidelines.

Privacy and data security are paramount when using AI systems. Healthcare professionals must prioritize patient confidentiality and adhere to strict privacy protocols when interacting with ChatGPT or any AI tool that involves patient data. Safeguarding patient information and complying with data protection regulations are essential ethical considerations.

Transparency and accountability are vital aspects of integrating AI systems into professional development. Surgeons should have a clear understanding of the limitations, biases, and potential risks associated with AI language models. Regular training and education on AI systems can empower healthcare professionals to make informed decisions and navigate the evolving landscape of AI-driven technologies effectively.

By acknowledging these ethical considerations, promoting responsible use, and ensuring appropriate data and human oversight, surgeons can leverage the potential of AI systems like ChatGPT while upholding the highest standards of patient care, professional integrity, and ethical practice.

Integrating ChatGPT into healthcare offers transformative potential, enhancing communication, knowledge sharing, and collaboration.

By working together, we can ensure responsible integration, address ethical considerations, and maximize the benefits for ACS members and the surgical community. The future of AI in supporting ACS members and advancing surgery is promising.

ChatGPT offers valuable opportunities for busy surgeons in the ACS community. By embracing AI as a powerful tool, ACS members can navigate the evolving healthcare landscape and deliver exceptional patient care in a continuously advancing field.


The thoughts and opinions expressed in this viewpoint article are solely those of Drs. Upperman and Meyers and do not necessarily reflect those of the ACS or YHC.