Why The Health Industry Won't Resort To Robots
Gulf Business|December 2017

Zarmina Jafar, founder of The Health Bank, explains why robots won’t take over the healthcare industry, but how AI will play an increasingly important role.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the latest buzzword that has taken the world by storm. It has been projected widely and wildly as the next biggest disruptor of all things we know and see around us – embedded in all facets of our lives, be it home, work or play.

In the healthcare space we hear of theories why AI in the form of robots will become our new companions – an army of smart and intelligent doers of routine tasks that could well replace our trusted reliance on the familiar services from highly trained clinical professionals and in fact displace human interaction.

McKinsey & Company, in its publication on digital transformation in healthcare, discusses the changing landscape where never before have so many new technologies emerged at the same time with the power to affect the healthcare industry so quickly.

Next-generation genomics; big data and advanced analytics; machine learning and automation programmes; connected, sensor-enabled devices and wearables; 3-D printing; and robotics – all have the potential to fundamentally change the way healthcare industry will function in the future.

So, is artificial intelligence the next digital frontier in the healthcare space and at what cost? Will your expert cardiologist, neurosurgeon, radiologist or neighbourhood physician be the target as this next wave of futuristic technology systems and robotics unleashes?

Bernard Tyson, CEO of Kaiser Permanente (the world’s largest integrated healthcare company) thinks not. He says: “I don’t think any physician today should be practising without artificial intelligence assisting in their practice. It’s just impossible (otherwise) to pick up on patterns, trends, to really monitor care.”

There seems to be a growing acknowledgement that AI will not replace; instead become a powerful tool in the hands of expert physicians who will then use it to deliver better care and improved outcomes for all of us.

The theory that reliance upon human judgment and traditional models of care delivery will be taken over by an automated machine-learning AI based Wall-E, who stores and processes vast amounts of information, is always analysing and comparing statistics and probabilities, diagnoses accurately, prescribes a personalised medication plan and an accurate disease prognosis perfectly, is only that – a theory.

While the automation of activities can enable businesses to improve performance by reducing errors and improving quality and speed, and in some cases achieving outcomes that go beyond human capabilities, “there’s a misunderstanding that someone can programme a bot that will take over everything the radiologist does,” says Carla Leibowitz, Head of Strategy and Marketing at Arterys, a medical imaging start up.

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