When it comes to the future of technologies like artificial intelligence in healthcare, majority of us envision a dystopian future where all the doctors would be replaced by machines and robotic counterparts. The reality couldn’t be more different. What the majority of us don’t realise is that the technological revolution of healthcare is no longer a futuristic concept. It is already here!
Technologies like artificial intelligence, big data analytics, virtual and augmented reality, cloud computing, wearable smart devices and robotics in healthcare are already finding real-time applications.
So what do these healthcare technology trends indicate for the future of healthcare professionals?
The amalgamation of technology in the field of healthcare is good news for patients, healthcare providers and the community as a whole. Clinical health AI applications alone are expected to create $150 billion in annual savings for the U.S. healthcare economy by the year 2026.
The positives of this groundbreaking technology are numerous. With increasing life expectancy and increase in the elderly population, the demand for access to healthcare is constantly on the rise. Healthcare mobility is helping in bridging the doctor patient gap and is enabling the healthcare providers to cater to more patients in a faster and more effective manner.
Shortening the diagnosis cycle
The area of healthcare where AI has found the maximum application is radiology and pathology. By training the healthcare data with existing patient datasets, radiological and pathological diagnosis are already being reached. Not only are the results comparable to that of a human radiologist, the process is also significantly faster.
This by no means implies that the radiologists would be replaced by intelligent machines in the future. Handling of the routine cases by AI reduces the existing workload on the radiologists, who can focus on the more complicated cases that require their expertise. Technology would only augment the healthcare workforce, leading them to diagnose and treat more patients in a shorter time span.
Patient centric healthcare
Technology has not only changed how doctors treat patients but have also transformed how patients manage their own health. The ideal healthcare delivery scenario would be when healthcare services can be delivered to the hands of every person. Mobile phones are doing exactly that. There is no dearth of healthcare apps available right now. From fitness apps letting the patients take charge of their own health, pipeline management software for managing new patient leads and conversions, to AI based apps that lead to the preliminary diagnosis, healthcare based apps are in abundance.
Even though diagnosis is now available at the tips of the fingertips, the need for nurse practitioners is as crucial as ever and is going to remain in the future as well. The reason behind this is simple, human empathy is a huge component of healthcare and no matter the advancements in technology, that is something that cannot be replaced by non sentient machines.
Additionally, years of experience along with the doctor’s intuition and observational skills go hand in hand to reach the clinical diagnosis. The way the patients walks, speaks, sleeps and looks are all important to the final diagnosis. An AI algorithm is only as good as the datasets used to train it and these qualities cannot be taught. They can only be achieved by the physician’s commitment towards lifelong learning. Technology definitely acts as an adjuvant in patient care, effectively reducing the doctor’s load and enabling them to efficiently treat a large number of patients.
Data driven processes
The amount of healthcare data being generated is constantly increasing. The shift of medical records from the conventional paper based ones to electronic medical records took place a long time back. The shift to cloud computing in healthcare is happening in real time now. Add the health data generated by fitness wearables and other medical devices in the mix and the amount of data gathered becomes insurmountable for human efforts.
Big data analytics and AI algorithms help sort through the heaps of data to reach actionable information. The data driven processes are allowing the doctors to make the shift from one size fits all treatment approach to personalized care plans for the individuals. Mobile devices have made it possible for the healthcare providers to remotely monitor the patients via telemedicine. This is more convenient for the patient who gets access to healthcare services from the comfort of their home while effectively reduces the strain on the healthcare organizations and allows the doctor to treat more cases.
Advanced doctor training and surgical programs
Technology has become a boon for the doctors in training. Augmented reality and virtual reality are being used for mass medical learning. AR/VR are also being used as a tool for planning surgical scenarios in preparation of a surgery. The surgeons can now have interactive visualizations of the human body and can plan and optimize the sequence of events in the surgery.
Robotics is yet another field that is seeing massive advancements in the field of surgery. Semi-autonomous robots like da-vinci are already being used manually as well as remotely to perform the surgical procedures. The technology is still in its infancy but the potential it holds is limitless. While fully autonomous robotic surgery just might become a possibility sometime in the future, the expertise of experienced surgeons would remain as valuable as it is right now.
Technologies like AI are transforming the business world and the field of healthcare is no exceptions to these transformative changes. What we are witnessing right now is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg and the true potential it has is limitless. While it’s clear that technology isn’t a threat to the doctors and is nowhere near replacing them, it definitely is augmenting the healthcare professionals and making healthcare delivery faster and more accessible by all. The future of technology in healthcare certainly shines bright.
Anubhuti Shrivastava is a content crafter at Arkenea and Benchpoint. She is passionate about writing articles on topics related to design and the software development industry.