The field of medicine seems to be a touchy one for people with regards to the automation of how it is practiced. We struggle to get comfortable with the idea that machines could somehow replace the human doctors with whom we trust our lives and the lives of our children. It’s that fear that prevents us from taking the intellectual steps to realize that doctors, nurses and most medical services can and will be automated. If it helps, picture your favorite sci-fi movie where we all get dropped into a pod, which both analyzes and fixes us in a second. If that seems, nice and convenient and reliable — then you’ll be in a better place to realize that there are steps to get from here to there. In this blog post, I will aim to show you the cumulative steps that the medical industry is taking to automate. I suspect you’ll be amazed to see them put together, all in one place…
Let’s start with some amazing videos
Look at the amazing precision that robotic surgery is capable of. Now there is still a human involved in this particular operation, but the tasks of the movement can be mimicked in the same way that the the Moley kitchen mimcs the movements of a 5 star Chef. Code will be drafted to make the technique of each surgery precise and perfect. Humans will remain involved to “oversee” operations until the machine prove that they have the adaptive capability to react to unforeseen difficulties, but each time it happens, machine learning adds it to the repertoire.
Now we use doctors for a lot more than surgery. Diagnosis is a critical part of what a GP or specialist needs to provide their patient. Here are some examples of AI at work in diagnosis.
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Again, many of these tools are currently designed and marketed as assistants to doctors. Mostly because the providers of these products realize that patients aren’t ready to give themselves over completely to machines. But in reality, the practitioner is taking the diagnosis and telling you what it is. I’m certain we have a calming AI voice that can read out the results for you. A further argument companies make regarding these systems currently is that the doctor PLUS the AI is more reliable than either alone. A solution for that of course is two different AI processes, but again, is the patient ready to trust a machine-only process. Lastly, if you don’t believe that these diagnostic procedures will improve, then maybe you have been paying attention to ANY technological advancements.
How else do we interact with doctors. Regular checkups often include blood tests which of course are easily automated, simpler and more thorough.
Physical evaluation — your smartphone and personal health trackers can provide enormous amounts of data about our day-to-day health, sleeping, nutrition and physical activity.
23 and Me and other services allow you to examine your DNA. Combined with the technology of CRISPR and advances in gene therapy, we are already having discussions about treating disease before it manifests.
Maybe our doctors are just there to provide advice, because of course, they will know 100% of the latest technological advancements, newest drug treatments, how to avoid negative drug interactions, the latest physical therapy techniques, nutritional impacts and treatments and all the relevant info on you from your various specialists — oh wait… yeah that’s a machine, not a human.
It would seem we are left with the doctor-patient relationship. For many doctors, this is a genuine strength and in the future will become a key differentiation for them. But I have also heard of plenty of disappointed patients, who probably can’t wait to trade their doctor in for comprehensive machine interaction. In all of my work on job replacement by automation, I always leave room for the human element. There will be people who choose to acquire services from humans, because they are human (at least as long as we can know the difference). So certain doctors will find work because of “who they are and how they relate to others”, which of course is a great thing. However, most doctors will not survive automation. I personally expect to see a phase out beginning with the generation of our youth today, so roughly 20–30 years.
Lastly, there are cost and convenience factors. Machines work 24/7, doctors do not. Machines are capital investments, doctors have on-going salaries which rise nearly every year. In a world that is reaching crisis levels with health care costs, AI and Automation will continue to be solutions for rising costs and will likely force our acceptance of automated medicine much more quickly than anticipated. The replacement process will not be linear, nor will it happen all at once. Rather, you will see an increased use of technology around you during visits. Certain services and tests will be introduced as fully automated, but with doctors and practitioners nearby to supervise, until enough time goes by without problem that patients are comfortable. But eventually, machines will replace most of the functions of a doctor. If our doctors, the people we trust with our most valuable asset - our lives, can be replaced, then what won’t automation be able to replace.