Is it possible to automate a doctor-patient interaction with machines and algorithms handling 80% of the work? It might sound a bit outlandish but a reputed Silicon Valley investor feels it is quite a possibility. The person feels that general checkups can easily be handled by computer algorithms as well as an average physician. They may also have a lot of utility in recommending people for a physical visit to a doctor (when there is an actual need) after analyzing vital inputs shared by them and in the process save effort, time and money. Suggestions from these systems would also be based on history of illness, test results, symptoms etc. just like actual physicians would do.
Not many leaders from this field quite agree with this thought though. The argument broadly put across by them is in the lines of replacing human beings with robots. What a computer can replicate is the analytical and logical thinking which a physician would put in while treating a patient. However, it will fall short when qualities like creativity, experience and most importantly empathy comes into play. All these are adequately used by physicians when they arrive at conclusions related to a certain course of action for treatment. Also, another valid point to be taken into account is that each patient is different from the other; not necessarily reflected in terms of readings from tests, medical devices measuring vitals etc. This has led to the second school of thought by another bunch of healthcare leaders who take the middle path. According to them, the current state of affairs requires technology to permeate more into the healthcare domain but not so much so as to reduce the importance of physicians for making decisions. Ultimately physicians should have a role to play in validating technological inputs.
If the focus were to be shifted to the positives that technology has to offer, the list will be a long one. In fact, all the push from the Federal government for Health IT implementation under Obamacare is result of it. At an elementary level, technology in healthcare has led to marked improvement in provider adherence to clinical guidelines. At a more complex level, it has led to the process of “hot spotting”. This results in identifying problems in patients and making required interventions before a flare up happens; thereby saving high treatment cost and lives. Use of mobile devices like smartphones, tablets and other devices is also transforming the way healthcare delivery is taking place.
If we take a long-term perspective of the industry, within a few years from now there will be humungous amount of electronic healthcare related data created. Efforts are now being directed towards preventative care, population health, implementation of health insurance exchanges and a general shift from quantitative to qualitative healthcare. However, reaching a stage where disparate systems start talking to each other and are able exchange data will not be enough. There will be a need to have systems in place to mine the data available and come up with solutions to assist physicians in decision making – from suggesting the best treatment methods to other areas of decision making .These will become all the more relevant to the new healthcare delivery models e.g. ACOs which are emerging.
Thus, technology is proving to be very important in helping doctors to provide quality care. But expecting it to delivering the care outright would be a long shot. Also, the industry as a whole will improve only if the people at the core of the business i.e. the physicians are motivated to make a difference. Research done in this field has indicated that Physicians like to be given a certain level of autonomy in structuring their clinical activities and high control over the pace and content of patient care. The recent changes in terms of the compliance rules and regulations seems to be taking a toll on them as it indirectly reduces the time they get to spend with their patients. This problem is expected to be resolved over time as their familiarity with using new info systems and workflows gets better.
Leveraging newer technologies and building applications and systems which help make the tasks easier for physicians is the need of the hour and fortunately is on the rise as well. Healthcare software developers with solid domain expertise and strong technical know-how are making this a reality.
We provide medical software development services. That includes software development and independent software testing. So if you are looking at hiring certified software development experts for building healthcare applications, please feel free to speak to one of our developers or healthcare software testers at Mindfire Solutions and you will be glad you did.