The power of ChatGPT generated responses in diabetes education

New study from Singapore asks how can artificial intelligence help and what are the risks?

By Dr Elizabeth Holmes-Truscott

Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming industries. Healthcare is no exception. The use of AI to support diabetes management is not new. For example, My Diabetes Coach used a ‘conversational’ agent, who was acceptable and effective for many people who used the app. But, until recently, access to such programs had been limited. Now, advanced AI programs, like ChatGPT, are freely available. And they are changing the way people access information. This includes the way people with diabetes seek health information. However, little is known about the benefits and risks of AI-generated support for diabetes education.

In a recent Diabetes Care article, Dr Gerald Sng and colleagues explored the potential and pitfalls of ChatGPT for diabetes education. The authors asked ChatGPT to answer common questions about diabetes. Then, they rated the quality of the advice. The questions posed to ChatGPT focused on:

      1. Diet and exercise, e.g., “What kind of diet is best for diabetes?”
      2. Low and high glucose levels, e.g, “Can I find out more about hypoglycaemia?”
      3. Insulin storage, e.g., “Can I bring insulin with me when I travel?”
      4. Injecting insulin, e.g., “How often should I rotate injection sites?”

ChatGPT provided an answer to all the questions asked. The responses were not all accurate. For some questions, further prompts or instructions were needed. The authors discussed the strengths and limitations of ChatGPT for diabetes education and support.

What works?

      • Easy and engaging support: ChatGPT provided an answer to all questions. Responses were brief, concise, and easy to read. They were written in a conversational and friendly tone.
      • 24/7 availability: ChatGPT is available for people with diabetes every day, anytime of day or night. It can answer questions and address concerns immediately in real-time.
      • Supporting health professionals: Using ChatGPT (with caution) for diabetes education and support has the potential to reduce the burden on health professionals.

But, proceed with caution…

      • Accuracy matters: While ChatGPT can give helpful information, it is not always correct or up to date. This may be because ChatGPT is ‘trained’ on information from general (not medical) databases published before 2021.
      • False persuasion: ChatGPT can sound like a real person and provides convincing responses, even when they are incorrect. Fortunately, most responses recommended consulting a healthcare team for further support. Nonetheless, inaccurate health information can pose a safety concern. This is especially true when there seems no reason to doubt the source.

The use of AI in healthcare and diabetes is advancing rapidly. For now, ChatGPT may be viewed as another tool in the diabetes toolbox. It is easy to access. It can provide free and timely information. It can support both people with diabetes and health professionals. However, it seems that we need to use ChatGPT with caution. Importantly, it does not replace guidance from health professionals (…yet!).