Anyone else hooked on the Netflix series, Black Mirror? The moral dilemmas the series presents are brilliant! Some story-lines are tangible, some less so, but none-the-less the series reflects our 21st Century existence back at us; how without really questioning it, technology has transformed all aspects of our lives; in every home; on every desk; in every palm in less than a generation. Technology no transcends every aspect of our lives from entertainment to healthcare through to our basic needs.
One area which I’m really interested in, and slightly afraid of, is how healthcare is changing. What technology will do for healthcare?
Technology, in its current form, is revolutionising the way in which medical professionals interact with patients and is likely to change the face of healthcare in the coming decades. The emergence of online doctor appointments is allowing families to connect with healthcare professionals without having to leave our homes.
Last Friday, I had a doctor’s consult and a talk with my physio about my knee acting up again all conducted over the phone. The result: some specialist appointments booked directly at the hospital (I just need to show up) and my physio pinged across an exercise regime to do daily before I see her next week.
Apps provide new opportunities for patients to seek medical advice without ever having to talk to a human being.
Do you think families of the future, living in a world where their lives are more integrated with technology than ever before, through health bands and exercise and sleep monitors and such, may come to rely more on machines to keep healthy than they do on humans?
Healthcare Technology Benefits
Virtual healthcare services have the potential to cut doctor’s waiting lists, slash medical expenses- especially in countries where heathcare costs are on access and expensive- and reduce the amount of time spent in waiting rooms. It is likely that, as technology assumes a more dominant role in our lives, increasing numbers of families will prefer to talk to an online doctor than to meet a healthcare professional in person. Online consultations, conducted by video call, can reduce the workload of healthcare providers and may prove more cost-effective than physical appointments in surgeries.
Imagine not having to drag your sick child into the doctor’s waiting lounge to get even worse?
The evolution of AI, improving with each generation of smartphone or tablet computer and accessible via mobile apps, has reached the point where computer programs can diagnose illnesses and doctors can focus on more important tasks than the dispensation of medical advice. At a recent lecture, we were shown some results of computers learning from doctors in diagnosing eye conditions and then the AI actually overtaking human doctors in diagnostic accuracy. It was fascinating!
The nature of medical consultations in the future will depend on the technology that is available and, if the recent advances in Virtual Reality are to continue at their current pace, it is likely that doctor’s appointments will be held in an immersive VR environment.
It may be possible to talk to a human medical practitioner in a VR healthcare centre or, if AI continues to continues to improve in the coming years, there might be the option to receive healthcare advice from a computer program that assumes the appearance and mannerisms of a human. The advances in both AI and VR and their pioneering use in a number of online industries indicates that integration of these two technologies in the provision of healthcare services could become a reality in the not-too-distant future.
The use of online healthcare services, such as electronic appointment booking and access to digitalised medical information before and after consultations, can lead to greater patient satisfaction and reduced workload for members of the healthcare professions. Sweden is already pioneering this. I can access all my information via web services.
Technology, in its present state, has already improved the standard of patient care and the quality of healthcare should get better as the existing infrastructure becomes more sophisticated over time. Online healthcare services have the potential to lower the number of telephone calls to surgeries, decrease the administrative workload of service providers, reduce the amount of time families spend travelling to and from practice, provide information that would previously have been unavailable to patients and increase levels of operational efficiency.
I love how the pharmacies works here in Sweden- I go to any pharmacy in the country, hand in my personal ID and pick up my prescriptions. They have it all there on the computer, in a centralised system.
There is a shift world-wide though: In the UK, people suffering from diagnosed medical conditions can use online prescription services to order their medicines, prescribed via doctor’s appointment, from the comfort of their own homes.
The advantage of using technology to procure prescribed medication is that individuals who are not fortunate enough to have access to a local pharmacy and who are unable to travel, such as disabled persons or the geographically isolated, are able to access the drugs that they need. Online medicine delivery services have made it possible for patients to order pharmaceutical products via their laptop, smartphone or tablet devices and to have them delivered to their doorsteps. The rising popularity of online pharmacies suggests that families in the future, having consulted with an online doctor and received a prescription, will likely opt to have medicine delivered to their houses instead of collecting it from high-street pharmacy- a service the likes of Boots only offers to the elderly currently.
What do you think of the way medicine is heading? Do you hate going to the GP surgery?
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