The Limits (and Realities) of Automation in Healthcare

Guest post by Edgar T. Wilson, writer, consultant and analyst.

Edgar T. Wilson
Edgar T. Wilson

Is there an unspoken fear among caregivers that the subtext of all this digital disruption is a devaluation of the human element?

In countless industries, workers and analysts alike watch the slow march of technology and innovation and see as inevitable the takeover of human tasks by robots, AI, or other smart systems. We watched as the threat of outsourcing transformed into a reality of automation in industrial sectors, saw drones take on countless new roles in the military and in commerce, and now we hear about how driverless cars, self-checkout kiosks, and even robotic cashiers in restaurants are all waiting in the wings to dive in and displace even more formerly human occupations.

And looking at how EHRs — by virtue of their cumbersome workflows alone, not to mention all the documentation and growing emphasis on analytics and records-sharing–are taking flack for burnout and frustration in hospitals across the country, it hardly seems a reach to suggest that maybe America’s caregivers are feeling not just burdened by technology, but threatened.

Digital records are already changing what doctors and nurses do, how they work, and what is expected of them — it must surely be only a matter of time before their roles start getting handed over to the robots and supercomputers … right?


Change, Not Replacement

While some jobs or roles may face elimination through automation, the more common effect is transformation. In healthcare, that may mean that for many their title is the same — perhaps even the education and certification standards that go along with it–but their actual functions and roles in context will be different.

We see this already with respect to EHRs. The early, primitive documentation workflows and reporting obligations have drawn ire from clinicians who see their autonomy under attack by digital bureaucracy. But this is naturally destined for correction; medicine has advanced through trial and error for centuries, and the 21st century is no different.

The transition and disruption doesn’t manifest exclusively as growing pains. Consider the role of medical laboratory scientists and technologists: the Obama administration is pushing for a cure for cancer based on the advancement of personalized medicine; patient-centered care is becoming a priority among all caregivers as well as a quality metric in health centers across the country; genomic testing is seeing growing demand on the consumer side, as well as applications in a growing array of clinical settings.

All of these trends point to the medical lab as a newly central component of the modern care center, treatment plan, and information hub. The demands all these new technologies and applications put on laboratory professionals requires them to do more learning, adapting, and leading than ever before, especially to integrate the latest and greatest devices and tests available.

Simply put, machines are still fallible, and require assistance in providing critical context, to supplement their ability to accurately read, diagnose, and self-regulate to ensure accuracy and consistency, not to mention proper application in the clinical setting.

Continue Reading

Why AI Is Not Going To Disrupt Our Healthcare System

Guest post by Krithika Siddharth, content writer, Innoppl Technologies.

Krithika Siddharth
Krithika Siddharth

Since 2011, more than $870 million have been invested in more than 65 healthcare artificial intelligence (AI) startups. These startups concentrate on various areas, from nursing to drug discoveries, where AI’s potential can be put to best use. This is where the world’s heading towards and the future of healthcare lies.

The roots of AI may have been from some science fiction storytellers, but now, the reality is that AI plays a major role in our everyday life. Beginning with the IBM Watson supercomputer defeating the longtime Jeopardy champion, Ken Jennings, the world started taking notice about what artificial intelligence can do.

With Google and IBM making tremendous progress with their AI initiatives and the other tech giants (Like Apple, Dell, Facebook) trying to catch up, it makes us wonder what will happen when one day we have robots running around doing our everyday chores.

But, the main question should be what will happen when AI does fully breach our day to day lives: Will we embrace this reality and let robots take us over? And do we really need or is it desirable to have self-driving cars and artificial intelligence? Should computers acquire enough data and knowledge to replace our existing doctors?

Maybe we do or maybe we don’t, but let’s stop before we get ahead of ourselves.

AI should not be perceived as “artificial intelligence” but rather as “augmented intelligence.” It has the potential to process data and make cognitive decisions, which an average human can take many months to process. AI has truly opened numerous opportunities in the field of healthcare, which was humanly impossible just a few years ago.

Getting into the facts, the main advantage AI has over a normal human being is the ability to process a gazillion data points within seconds.

So let’s imagine a patient walks in with a flu – even to diagnose and treat this common illness with the right medication can take a while. There are some cases where the patients don’t even react to the medication. These are common scenarios, as each body reacts differently to different medicines leading to an increased treatment time. Whereas, if the diagnosis is powered with an AI backed system to help, doctor’s will be armed with all the right data and can diagnose and prescribe the right medication within minutes.

How’s that for a game changer?

Yes, AI is the perfect medical assistant to healthcare professionals.Through an iPad based electronic medical record, even the patient genome studies could be integrated into their electronic medical reports. Armed with this data, AI has enough information to make a better analysis and provide accurate treatment plans based on the patient’s medical history, genetic conditions and other medications they are taking for other illnesses.

Continue Reading