“The robodoc will see you now!”

Think for a minute about the usual chain of events leading up to seeing a doctor: you feel sick, so you probably Google your symptoms. The internet tells you that you’re close to death so you make an appointment with a GP. You sit in the waiting room reading year-old magazines before you’re called through and asked to give a rundown of your symptoms. The doc assesses them and hunts around for clues as to their source and provides you with a diagnosis. You’re given a script, and away you go.

Flash forward to the year 2025: you start to cough. You tap an app that checks your symptoms, runs it through a database of research, diagnoses and treats you. Science fiction? Well, some experts predict that, within the next 10 years, machines will replace around 80% of human doctors! Yes, really. How could that even happen, and more importantly, what does it mean for you?

Game changing trends in medicine:

It seems the good old days of sticking your tongue out and saying “aaaaah”, are long gone. Things are moving ahead, and they’re moving fast. Key innovations and technology that are shaping the future of healthcare include:

  • A shift in healthcare focus, away from disease, towards prevention, regeneration and longevity
  • 3D printing. Need we say more?
  • Stem cell treatment, traditionally used to manage only specific diseases, being incorporated into broader disease prevention and healthy ageing techniques
  • Robotic surgeons operating at the molecular level, often with better precision than humans
  • Digital is changing the way healthcare is delivered by means of apps, mobile and cloud computing
  • Wearable technology is collecting personalised, detailed information about you 24/7
  • DNA technology allows researchers to “dissect” DNA to better understand the role it plays in disease
  • Big Data: via the role of digital in healthcare, researchers can collect millions of different data points, and use them to build formulas to predict almost anything!

Technology: friend or foe?

There are obvious benefits to using this advancing technology:

  • Waiting time and number of doctor visits is significantly reduced
  • Your entire health history is available at the touch of a button
  • Standard tests, including blood pressure and blood glucose monitoring can easily be done at home
  • Based on data collected from millions of others, advanced formulas can “diagnose” your problem. You would then be advised to physically see a doctor or specialist (or simply to stay at home and get some TLC)
  • Reminders to take chronic medication or health measurements can be created to ensure better management of disease
  • Cameras can be used to send pictures of rashes, stings or bites. Again, using big data, an accurate diagnose could be sent within minutes
  • The same quality and standard of medical intervention becomes available to everyone
Read  This is better than Googling your symptoms

Doctors are humans too!

Even though doctors undergo extensive training, we can’t realistically expect any doctor to remember every single symptom or test result that a person has had over the years. We also can’t expect them to, at the tap of a pencil, correlate your specific symptoms with symptoms found in someone in a remote part of China, or be fluent in 11 official languages! Not to mention trying to sound comprehensive at 2:30am.

Are you ready to trust a heartless machine?

That said, there is much to be said for a friendly, personal interaction when you meet a doctor. And that is something technology can never replace. Indeed, data driven formulas lack patience, experience, intuition and listening skills. Of course, there are also those “bugs”, not germs in the normal sense, but glitches in computer software programs. What would happen if something went wrong, and instead of prescribing you blood pressure lowering medication, your app told you that you needed the opposite?

In that sense, it seems that technology could be both friend and foe. While there is no doubt that the future of healthcare will become more digital, this kind of technology should be complimentary, rather than a total replacement or quick fix.

So, breathe easy, your doc is here to stay!

References

https://techcrunch.com/2012/01/10/doctors-or-algorithms/
http://www.vitallife-international.com/chapter/Introduction%20to%20the%20Future%20of%20Medicine.pdf
http://www.wired.co.uk/article/doctors-replaced-with-machines