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AI Chatbots Surpass Doctors in Empathy and Readability for Cancer-Related Queries, Study Finds

AI Chatbots Surpass Doctors in Empathy and Readability for Cancer-Related Queries, Study Finds

A recent study has shown that AI chatbots are outperforming doctors in providing empathetic and readable responses to cancer-related questions. This revelation highlights the growing role of artificial intelligence in healthcare, especially in improving patient communication and support.

Study Overview

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern, involved a comprehensive analysis of patient-facing cancer information on websites of 34 National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) member institutions. The researchers compared the readability and empathy of responses generated by AI chatbots, specifically ChatGPT, with those provided by human doctors.


The research team collected and analyzed cancer-related content from the websites, focusing on lung, colorectal, pancreas, breast, and prostate cancers. The collected data was then processed through various readability tests, including the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, Fry Readability Score, Gunning Fog Index, and SMOG Index. These tests aimed to measure how easily the information could be understood by the general public, particularly those with a sixth-grade reading level as recommended by the American Medical Association (AMA).

ChatGPT was tasked with rewriting the patient-facing content to improve readability. The outputs were then compared to the original texts for readability and assessed for empathy by trained evaluators.


The findings were significant. AI chatbots consistently produced content that was more readable and empathetic than that provided by doctors. The readability of chatbot-generated content averaged at a sixth-grade level, making it accessible to a broader audience. This is crucial, as many patients struggle to understand medical information due to its complexity.

In terms of empathy, the chatbots excelled by using natural language processing (NLP) techniques to interpret patient queries and respond in a supportive and understanding manner. This capability is essential in cancer care, where patients often seek not only information but also emotional support.

Implications for Healthcare

The study’s results suggest that AI chatbots could play a vital role in patient education and support. By providing clear, empathetic, and easily understandable information, chatbots can help bridge the communication gap between healthcare providers and patients. This is especially beneficial in oncology, where patients frequently deal with complex and emotionally charged information.

Chatbots offer several advantages, including 24/7 availability, scalability to handle numerous interactions simultaneously, and the ability to reduce the workload on healthcare professionals by automating routine inquiries. They can also improve patient adherence to treatment plans by providing reminders and follow-up support.

Challenges and Future Directions

Despite the promising findings, there are challenges to be addressed. Ensuring the accuracy of information provided by chatbots is critical, as misinformation can have serious consequences. Ongoing evaluation and updates to the AI algorithms are necessary to maintain the quality and reliability of chatbot responses.

Additionally, integrating AI chatbots into existing healthcare systems requires careful planning to complement rather than replace human interactions. The ultimate goal should be to enhance the patient experience and outcomes through a harmonious blend of technology and human touch.

The study underscores the potential of AI chatbots to enhance patient care in oncology by providing empathetic and readable responses to cancer-related questions. As technology continues to advance, it is likely that AI will become an increasingly integral part of healthcare, offering new ways to support and engage patients.


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