People and Technology in Healthcare - Is the Balance Right?

17 November 2015

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Technology is becoming more and more prevalent in almost every aspect of our day to day. There are countless benefits and opportunities provided by new and emerging technology; enabling people to lead more effective and efficient lives. Medical Technology is a prime example of how invaluable new technology can be in improving patient care and most importantly, save lives. The continuous innovation dominant within healthcare makes the medical device sector a really exciting and rewarding industry to work in.

With all the amazing medical insight, data and time saving capabilities medical technology has given us, it's interesting to explore what could be behind the articles and opinion that technology is encroaching on areas that some rather it wouldn't’? Articles detailing how human jobs are being replaced by robots have become more and more prevalent. The theory that robots will replace humans has evolved from a concept into academic data; Boston Consulting Group predicts by 2025, up to a quarter of jobs will be replaced by either smart software or robots, while a study from Oxford University suggests 35% of existing UK jobs are at risk of automation in the next 20 years.

So where do we draw the line? What’s the most effective ratio for technology and human interaction to enable the best care? To believe robots could take over most human jobs would take away from our identity and allowing technology to progress to the point where people no longer have a career purpose incomprehensible. There are many roles a robot simply couldn't replace; roles that rely on human interaction, perception of emotion and body behaviour, sense and empathy. An obvious example are doctors and nurses.

Let’s explore with a case study. Introducing the RP-VITA robot (feature picture in action).

RP-VITA ROBOT

Developed by InTouch Health and iRobot, the RP-VITA was designed to transform the delivery of acute care by expanding the use of remote consultants and increasing workflow efficiency. Its set to improve the patient experience through team-based care where doctors, nurses, pharmacists and case managers are able to interact remotely through RP-VITA to determine patient goals. It will assist with care delivery via data collection, patient monitoring, evaluations and patient-family experience where family members can communicate with doctors and patients from virtually anywhere. Its AutoDrive capabilities enable a remote provider to directly control or to automatically direct VITA to move to an intended location increasing the capability of active patient monitoring that may be needed for taking immediate clinical action.

There are many questions over the benefits and potential drawbacks of integrating such technology into our healthcare system. There’s substantial evidence to suggest that such technology is theoretically able to reduce the time patients need to spend in hospitals. The concern here is the potential risk associated with taking away the human element in patient care. Would this particular type of technology turn our healthcare system into more of a patient service than patient care service?

What are your thoughts on technology’s role in patient care and how would you prefer to deliver or receive your patient care service?

Dani Hamblin, Senior Critical Care Consultant at Projectus Consulting

patient care