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Technology-driven vs human-led treatment: What does the future hold?

By Dr Angelica Kohlmann, founder of Bloom Diagnostics

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Dr Angelica Kohlmann, founder of Bloom Diagnostics

The capability and accuracy of smart technology increases exponentially every year, so applying it to healthcare can have an equally exponential benefit to patients as well as healthcare workers, writes Dr Angelica Kohlmann, founder of Bloom Diagnostics.

We live in an age of technological revolution, in which smart tech has not only become part of our day-to-day lives, but is also starting to become integral to the world of medicine.

As smart tech continues to advance in terms of capabilities, speed, and quality, the question remains: how much influence will future doctors continue to have in the treatment of their patients?

How long until doctor’s visits become a thing of the past – along with waiting times, the discomfort of the waiting room, or the distress of trying to find the right specialist for you?

Smart technology comes with many advantages that go beyond what human beings can do on their own.

Though these machines are the product of human knowledge, their ability to save and retrieve large quantities of information, which they can use to calculate and predict future outcomes, excels the human mind by far.

This can be tremendously useful in the world of medicine: in an instant, a piece of smart tech can get access to a vast database of medical information, and use a patient’s input to formulate a diagnosis – and their performance is never impacted by emotional factors such as stress or emergency situations.

Artificial intelligence

Some tech companies already employ similar techniques, using patient information and a small blood sample to both analyse and interpret a user’s ferritin level, for example.

Using artificial intelligence, this technology advances and becomes more accurate with every test taken.

This kind of intelligence not only allows new insights into our health at a fast pace, but could also lead the way for the development of better therapies in the future.

In comparison, even the most well-informed and experienced doctor cannot memorise every possible combination of symptoms and blood values, which there are tens of thousands of, not to mention rare diseases that they have barely encountered in their careers.

Besides being faster, technology, in the long run, is also cheaper than manpower, as one machine could be used again and again to diagnose countless patients, and can keep working without feeling mentally or physically drained, or wanting to go home at the end of the work day.

A guidance tool

However, none of this is to say that human doctors have or will become obsolete anytime soon. As advanced as technology might already be, as of now, it cannot treat patients by itself.

It is much rather a tool to be used by doctors to treat their patients, or even by patients and lay-users themselves for guidance.

Patient diagnosis is beginning to become more technology-led, which is a crucial step to developing correct treatment in the first place.

The involvement of a doctor could also be beneficial for the patient for psychological reasons: one of the downsides of technological advancements is that those who are already skeptical of new technology will only grow more apprehensive as these developments go on.

After all, many patients consider the experience of their doctor as more trustworthy than the programming of a machine.

On top of that, what machines lack by nature is a human touch and the ability to empathise with their patients, which is much needed when delivering serious news about their health.

Not competing

Perhaps we shouldn’t be thinking of human-led and technological patient treatment as being in a dichotomous relationship – they are not really competing, after all.

The ideal future of med tech should not be one where technology has completely replaced doctors, but one in which doctors and patients have learned to use smart technology to their advantage in every conceivable way.

For instance, smart DNA-testing technology is already available through companies such as 23andMe.

Such technology could be combined with medtech in the future to adapt your diagnosis and treatment to your specific DNA, offering significantly more accurate results.

In fact, there are various kinds of smart technology that are already available today that, if combined, could provide treatment options and therapies that would be highly advanced in comparison to what we can offer patients now.

One of the major roadblocks to get there, however, is the need for new regulatory processes which, while taking a long time to be implemented, are necessary for a safe development.

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