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The rise in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) has gathered pace over the past year, with free online tools such as ChatGPT being made available to the public. They can be very beneficial sources of information, but doctors are warning against using them as an alternative way of seeking medical advice.

A recent survey reported in the Hippocratic Post found that 60% of people found talking about their health concerns with a doctor difficult, and over half preferred to turn to alternative sources such as AI in the first instance. Of those who admitted using tools such as ChatGPT for medical advice, 82% said they found the advice to be helpful.

However, the research delved further into the typical symptoms that were being queried on AI platforms and found that while two-thirds of the results were deemed to be helpful, 22.8% was considered to be potentially harmful, with key symptoms being missed.

In response to the study, Dr Crystal Wyllie told the publication: “With more people using AI platforms on a daily basis, this might seem like a quick and easy way to get medical advice, especially for sensitive issues like sexual health. However, the information platforms like ChatGPT provide isn’t always the most accurate and can lead you down the wrong path.”

She added: “Even if you’re short on time or feeling nervous to talk about tricky topics, nothing replaces talking to a trained medical professional.”

The most common problems that people of all ages struggled to talk about were sexual health, including erectile dysfunction (ED) in men, and also mental health problems and body weight. Men were more inclined to trust AI tools for health advice than women.

It is strongly recommended that men always talk to a medical professional if they are having problems with ED. This is because while it is possible to treat the issue in isolation with non-prescription products such as Viagra or Eroxon Stimgel, it is often the sign of another underlying health condition that could be potentially serious.

ED is a very common problem, and no doctor will feel surprised or uncomfortable when discussing it, as they will only be thinking about potential causes and any other health problems that need to be ruled out.

If you want to discuss this problem with your doctor but don’t feel comfortable about the prospect, this is perfectly normal as it is obviously a very sensitive and personal matter. However, it’s important to remember that your doctor will have dealt with hundreds of such queries and it is simply a routine part of their job.

Your doctor may want to run some tests for other health conditions that are linked to ED, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. They may recommend making a few lifestyle changes, including giving up smoking, taking more exercise, eating healthily, and drinking less alcohol.