Some doctors are using AI chatbots to help deliver bad news to patients, report says

iStock / Getty Images Plus
iStock / Getty Images Plus

From synthetic embryos, to a more inclusive BMI policy, to the possible benefits of vaginal fluids — here are some of the best health stories this week from Yahoo News partners.

Some doctors are using AI chatbots to help deliver bad news to patients, report says

According the New York Times, some doctors are using AI chatbots like ChatGPT to communicate with patients — even helping doctors deliver bad medical news in a more empathetic way or write scripts to speak to patients more compassionately.

"I know physicians are using this," one expert at Stanford Health Care told the New York Times about chatbots. "I’ve heard of residents using it to guide clinical decision making. I don’t think it’s appropriate."

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Peter Lee said he had anticipated that many doctors would use the new technology to help eliminate some of the mundane tasks that can consume physicians’ time, such as writing appeals to insurance companies or summarizing patient visits. But Futurism, which reported on the New York Times story, said that Lee was skeptical about ChatGPT being used to deliver bad news.

"As a patient, I’d personally feel a little weird about it," he told the New York Times.

Still, other experts claimed that ChatGPT could offer real benefits to doctors’ interactions with patients by helping them simplify medical jargon and break down more complex concepts when speaking with patients.

Doctors organization adopts new policy on BMI, acknowledging ‘racist exclusion’ and ‘historical harm’

iStock / Getty Images Plus
iStock / Getty Images Plus

The American Medical Association (AMA) has adopted a new policy advising doctors to focus less on body mass index (BMI) — a frequently used ratio of weight to height — to determine if a patient is at a healthy weight, acknowledging “the problematic history with BMI” and that it doesn’t account for differences across racial and ethnic groups, gender and age groups, Reuters reported.

“Under the newly adopted policy, the AMA recognizes issues with using BMI as a measurement due to its historical harm, its use for racist exclusion, and because BMI is based primarily on data collected from previous generations of non-Hispanic white populations,” the AMA said in a statement on Wednesday.

Instead of making diagnoses and recommendations based solely on BMI, the AMA advised doctors to factor in other measures of risk, such as “measurements of visceral fat, body adiposity index, body composition, relative fat mass, waist circumference and genetic/metabolic factors.”

Researchers say that applying vaginal fluid to C-section babies could help restore healthy bacteria

iStock / Getty Images Plus
iStock / Getty Images Plus

A study published on Thursday, June 15, in the journal Cell Host & Microbe found that exposing babies delivered via C-section to their mother's vaginal fluids shortly after birth may help restore some of the good bacteria acquired by babies delivered vaginally, aiding in better gut health and possible neurodevelopment benefits, AFP reported.

In the small study of 68 infants, researchers at the Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, used a method called “vaginal seeding” — swabbing each baby’s mouth and body with either a gauze soaked in the baby's mother’s vaginal fluid or a control substance. Six weeks later, after studying the babies’ fecal microbes, researchers found that babies exposed to their mother’s vaginal fluid had more “mature” gut bacteria closer to that of vaginally delivered babies. Based on questions about developmental milestones, the parents of babies exposed to vaginal fluids also reported that their babies had slightly more advanced communication and motor skills at 3 months old and 6 months old than the control group.

However, experts stress that the sample size is too small to draw any firm conclusions about the purported benefits of vaginal seeding, and that parents should avoid attempting vaginal seeding outside of a clinical setting due to the risk of possibly passing on infections to the infant.

Scientists say they’ve created world’s first human synthetic model embryos

Zernicka-Goetz lab / California Institute of Technology
Zernicka-Goetz lab / CalTech

Researchers from the United States and United Kingdom announced on Wednesday that they had created the world’s first synthetic human embryo-like structures from stem cells, without using human eggs or sperm, CNN reported.

The research hasn’t been published yet but was presented at the International Society for Stem Cell Research’s annual meeting in Boston by Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, a professor of biology and biological engineering at CalTech and the University of Cambridge. Zernicka-Goetz emphasized that the embryo-like structures her team created are “not human embryos.” But these models, which mimic some of the features of a natural human embryo at the earliest stages of development before a heartbeat is present, could prove to be invaluable to understanding genetic diseases or the cause of miscarriages early in pregnancy.

Zernicka-Goetz told CNN that the goal of her research is to prevent the loss of human life, not create it. But it still raises legal and ethical questions for countries, including the U.S., that don't have “laws governing the creation or treatment of synthetic embryos,” CNN reported.