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A Real Health 'Chat'

Evolving technology, AI everything and an Ask Alexa attitude isn’t the healthy way to run a business

So, ChatGPT, what is healthcare? 

We asked this question and the viral chatbot rattled off a dictionary response. It is accurate but read on — you’ll find out what’s missing. Here’s the abridged version:

“Healthcare refers to the maintenance or improvement of a person's health through the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and management of illness, injury, disease, or other physical or mental impairments… The goal of healthcare is to promote and maintain the health and well-being of individuals and populations.”

Well, that was engaging. O.K., ChatGPT. So, if that’s what healthcare is, how do you get good healthcare?

Here again, an edited down version of our AI answer-man who is making headlines: 

“Getting good healthcare involves several factors, including access to quality healthcare services, having a good relationship with your healthcare provider, and taking an active role in your own health.”

Alright, ChatGPT. Will you lower my cholesterol? Also, my blood sugar is pretty high and my doctor told me I need to watch it. 

“As an AI language model, I am not capable of directly lowering your cholesterol levels. However, I can provide you with general information and guidance on how to manage high cholesterol levels.”


This scenario brings up an interesting conversation I’ve been having at multiple dinner tables during the last month or so. Someone told me, “I don’t need to learn or know math. Technology can do that for me.” And another remark I found unsettling: “If technology can make my life easier, why not?”

Technology can support your health, but it cannot manage your health and wellbeing. Technology can support a business, but it shouldn’t be the brains behind your operation. These comments along with the flood of news during the last few weeks related to AI in health, AI chatbots — everything AI — introduces a real dilemma, in my opinion. When we allow tech to take over, are we complacently asking to get sick? In many ways, I think the answer is yes. 

Research shows you have to challenge your brain in order for it to grow. By allowing technology to do all the work, we are basically contributing to our own mental shrinkage. To put it bluntly, we’re getting dumber. As a Harvard Health article explains, our brains are constantly learning and growing even as we age because of a process called brain plasticity. But you have to “train it” on a regular basis to stay sharp and promote that growth. Asking Alexa isn’t the answer. Using your brain is. It keeps you healthy. It gives you purpose. It improves mental health. 

This issue goes beyond public health and includes employer health, and here’s why. Do you want to hire employees who want tech to do everything for them? Where’s the human innovation? Where’s the creative collaboration, the stimulating conversation, the knowledge sharing — the R&D?

Yes, technology is incredibly beneficial and it gives us smart tools to manage many aspects of business and health. For instance, there’s a “smart knee” that comes with built-in sensors that wirelessly transmit data about how the replacement knee is working. Data from these types of medical devices can objectively report on a person’s progress after surgery and help prevent complications.  

And of course, you’ve got your smart watches and other monitoring devices that do things like track movement to inspire more physical activity, report on blood pressure and heart rate, and so on. The bottom line is technology can promote better health. But technology cannot give you good health. It’s a resource not a rescue. 

So how can we be sure not to use technology as a crutch? 

What if we go back to the basics and find out how “analog” might stimulate communication, from a health and wellness perspective and for business, in general. Rather than allowing computers in a meeting, try taking notes with pen and paper. What do you notice? Is the team more engaged, more participatory? Are they able to create more connectivity across subject matter? There’s a lot to be said for hands-on learning, and that can include making handwritten notes. 

What if we skip the email follow-up question and instead walk over to a colleague’s office and just ask? You might find this approach irons out misunderstandings and promotes a greater sense of team. Rather than sending that text, pick up the phone. Messaging can get lost in translation and come across as flat, callous or “shouty” when it’s only digital. 

Amid the barrage of everything-tech, consider how some simple non-tech tweaks change the way employees communicate with each other, the way they understand and consume information, and the overall health of your organization. 

You can ask ChatGPT to do it for you. But here’s what our AI friend says: “As an AI language model, I'm not able to directly engage with your employees. However, I can offer some general tips that may help you engage your employees.” (That’s what we thought.)

About Health Action Council 
Health Action Council is a not-for-profit 501(c)(6) organization representing mid-and large-size employers that enhance human and economic health through thought leadership, innovative services, and collaboration. It provides value to its members by facilitating projects that improve the quality and moderate the cost of healthcare purchased by its members for their employees, dependents, and retirees. Health Action Council also collaborates with key stakeholders – health plans, physicians, hospitals, and the pharmaceutical industry – to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare in the community.

Patty Starr bio image

About the author

Patty Starr

Patty Starr is president and CEO of Health Action Council and is responsible for driving the strategic direction of the organization--build stronger, healthier communities where business can thrive. 

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