Ever since the first medicine man applied the first herbal salve on the first hunter willing to have that unfortunate back rash checked, healthcare has been founded on the principle of interaction between humans, the interaction between patients and physicians. As technology advanced over the centuries, so too did the tools that healers could use to remedy their patient’s ills. Surgery, cough medicine, leech medication (which is still being used today) and many more were born out healthcare’s advancements, along with the iron lung, the stretcher, the stethoscope, the patient record management software, and the X-Ray. In the 21st Century, healthcare and healthcare technology is seeing a boom, with more and more advances yet to come. With all this new forthcoming technology in the new decade, the idea of fully-automated healthcare systems seem less like science fiction and more like a certain, inevitable reality. But how certain is this idea? Will healthcare really become fully-automated in the Future?
Advancements in Healthcare Technology
In the current era, the latest advances in technology like robotics are being utilized for a multitude of tasks, such as surgery. The da Vinci Robot surgical system is well known for its precision, to the point that it successfully stitched the skin back on a grape (this would later become a minor meme in 2018). Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is even being considered for diagnosing and medicating patients, considering the complex information-analysis capacity of algorithms.
What’s Stopping Full Automation?
Considering these advancements, fully-automated healthcare seems like a certainty. However, the aforementioned innovations cannot be considered fully automatic yet. The robotic surgery system, for example, still requires manual interaction from a doctor. Although it is precise in its movements, it has yet to perform surgery without human input. A.I. in healthcare has its own issues, namely that a diagnosis is limited by the A.I.’s small data pool, a data pool that only provide information on a small fraction of the population. Considering that patient healthcare data is often safeguarded by different healthcare organizations and that sharing this exclusive data might be against their interests, A.I. has yet to be an ultimate solution to today’s healthcare problems.
The Human Touch
Perhaps one thing that removes the certainty of an all-automated healthcare future is the human factor. While some people prefer the company of machines idealized simulacra to other people (a diagnosis worthy of its own article), people generally want a fellow human being to interact with when they are healing. Even healthcare-related apps require the input of a human hand to work, instead of being the automated problem solver. Patients often desire interaction and personal agency. A.I. and robotics may greatly assist in providing care for patients, but human interaction remains an instrumental part of a person’s healing.