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Will technology replace doctors?

If there is something that science fiction has taught us, it is that our advances in technology are only limited to our imagination. In a matter of one century, we have created ways to fly, talk to each other face to face while being continents apart, and create tasks that needed a dozen people to accomplish at a push of a button, among other marvels.

Advanced technology benefits almost all industries, and medical institutions are no exception. While current technological advances in the medical field are in their infancy, what is shown so far is very promising and has helped doctors and patients managing the latter’s health similarly.

IT in the medical industry has also adjusted the personnel requirements in institutions such as hospitals and clinics, removing a percentage of personnel due to less work required while requiring others to shift their tasks and specializations.

However, will technology completely replace doctors, at least in the foreseeable future? Here’s where we are regarding the current and future medical advancements and how they will affect doctors and health care in general.

What Do We Have Now?

Current technological advancements in medicine include electronic health systems being used via computer terminals to access centralized information about patient data, health records, and the like. Self-service registration and treatment recordings and other health information pieces of equipment could use the same system.

Current technologies have also allowed for telehealth and telemedicine services wherein doctors and patients need not be in one location for consultations and diagnosis of some diseases. 

Telemetry devices with Wi-Fi connections allow for consistent and instant monitoring information such as blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. All these technologies, and many more in this category, are now widely used and have contributed to health care worldwide.

Recent trends in technology, however, are geared more towards AI or artificial intelligence. Through machine learning, it is now possible to use machines in diagnosing diseases such as cancers, eye disease, or even neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

Numerous tests on different technologies have proven to detect diseases with higher accuracy and at higher volumes when compared to a human doctor.

A machine that can detect and interpret diseases faster, and in some cases, years before the onset of the actual illness will be a boon for the medical industry. What’s even better is that AI is a continually learning program, and it can process information at a much faster rate.

An experienced radiologist may look at tens of thousands of X-rays or CT-scans in their entire career, while a machine can interpret hundreds of thousands in a year. Every scan will allow the AI to continually improve its detection and analysis algorithms, making them more efficient and accurate.

Will Doctors Be Replaced?

While technology has a way of pushing human workers to the sidelines, it would seem that this would not happen to doctors in the next few decades. While automation has reduced the time required for administrative and routine work that has caused a significant workforce reduction in hospitals, doctors are pretty much safe from these types of cutbacks due to various reasons.

The first reason is that people are still not comfortable with machines. A machine gives you a detailed diagnosis and provides you with an advised method of treatment and prognosis, but it never replaces a doctor who will look you in the eyes, hold your hand, and discuss with you your options. Machines will, at this point in time, at least, never learn the level of empathy and social interaction that an actual human doctor is capable of providing.

Another thing that proves machines will not replace doctors any time soon is their inherent fallibility. While humans may submit to AI when it comes to black and white, spoon-fed information, the reality is that there are several minute variations that, when fed to a machine, may lead to wrong results no matter how smart said computer is.

Studies have even shown that minute alterations to pixels of an image may lead a machine to distinguish an item from an entirely different object. Humans, on the other hand, have the judgment to look beyond a specific algorithm as well as the capability to think out of the box on their side, and that is something that current AI technology is not capable of learning.

Will Health Care Be Better With Technology?

Despite many services technology presents in medicine, doctors will still be the first line of defence. Technology such as cancer detection devices, automated tools that draw up blood samples without supervision, and sophisticated scanners will help a lot but, they would by no means replace medical professionals any time soon.

Instead, doctors and other health workers will experience a paradigm shift to focus more on core specialties than routine tasks.

You would also expect doctors and specialists to be more tech-savvy, to be able to utilize, troubleshoot, and interpret reading generated by computers and machines, while still relying on their own knowledge, skills, and experience to do verifications and corrections if necessary.

Advances in machinery and software can also help in areas with limited access to healthcare. A machine can greatly supplement a location with a low doctor-to-patient ratio. While the costs of current ever-advancing medical technology are very high, Moore’s law guarantees accessibility to these technologies.

Accordingly, the cost of health care will eventually decline as the need for specialists will be minimized, and machines will be capable of providing fast, efficient, accurate, and cheap services that a simple operator can provide.

While doctors are still relatively safe from being replaced by machines, it would be the patients in need of these critical services that would greatly benefit from these wondrous ever-increasing advances.

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