If there is something that science fiction has taught us, it is that our advances in technology is only limited by our imagination. In the span of a century, we have created ways to fly, talk to each other face to face even if we are continents apart, and create tasks that needed a dozen people to accomplish at a push of a button, among other marvels.
Advanced technology can benefit almost all industries, and medical institutions are definitely no exception. While current advances in technology in the medical field is at its infancy, what is being shown so far is very promising and have helped doctors and patients alike in managing the latter’s health.
IT in the medical industry has also adjusted the manpower 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 with regards to current and future medical advancements, and how it will affect doctors and health care in general.
What Do We Have Now?
Current technological advancements in the field of medicine include electronic health systems that can be used via computer terminals to access centralized information about patient data, health records, and the like. That same system can be used for self-service registration and recording of treatment and other health information.
Current technologies have also allowed for telehealth and telemedicine services wherein doctors and patients need not be in the same location for consultations and diagnosis of some diseases.
Telemetry devices with Wi-Fi connections allow for consistent and instant monitoring and relay of information such as blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. All of these technologies, and many more, are now widely in use and have contributed greatly in the improvement of health care worldwide.
Recent trends in technology, however, are geared more towards AI, or artificial intelligence. Through machine learning, it is now possible for machines to diagnose diseases such as cancers, eye disease, or even neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
In fact, numerous tests are now being done on different technologies that have been 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 disease will certainly 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.
While 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 then 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, at least in the next few decades. While automation has helped in reducing the time required for administrative and routine work which has caused a significant reduction in the workforce in hospitals, doctors are pretty much safe from these types of cutbacks due to a variety of reasons.
The first reason is that people are still not comfortable with machines. A machine giving you a detailed diagnosis as well as providing you with the advised method of treatment and prognosis will never replace a doctor that 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 that 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 a wrong result 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 to 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 the many things that technology can do in the field of medicine, doctors will still be the first line of defense. Technology such as cancer detection devices, automated tools that draw up blood sample without supervision, and sophisticated scanners will help a lot, but they would, by no means replace medical professionals any time soon.
What would happen, instead, is that doctors and other health workers would experience a paradigm shift wherein they would focus more on core specialties rather than routine tasks.
You would also expect doctors and specialists to be more tech-savvy, being able to utilize, troubleshoot, and interpret reading generated by computers and machines, while still relying on their own knowledge, skill, and experience to verify and correct if necessary.
Advances machinery and software can also help greatly in areas will limited access to healthcare. A machine can greatly supplement a location with a very low doctor to patient ratio, and while costs of current medical technology are quite high, Moore’s law pretty much guarantees that these would be much more accessible as the technology matures.
This means that 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.
With this being said, while doctors are still relatively safe from being replaced by machines, it would be the patients that need these critical services that would greatly benefit from these wondrous advances that still improve day by day.