Society is increasingly moving toward digitization. Just ask anybody who has ever asked Alexa to turn on their lights or lower their thermostat. The healthcare industry is no different; from mobile apps to smartwatches that provide users with health-related data, many are wondering whether artificial intelligence (AI) might one day make doctors obsolete. Are these fears unfounded, or could we one day find ourselves turning to inanimate objects for health advice?
AI’s Increasing Role in Healthcare
We are nowhere near close to having AI replace the traditional doctor-patient relationship, but when it comes to diagnostic aid, that’s another story. Technology has dramatically changed the playing field over the years, even in subtle ways; CT scans provide far more information than x-rays, for example, and are now widely used to detect a range of medical conditions that previously might have been overlooked.
AI, which is dependent upon machine-learning algorithms, has revolutionized the way health care is provided to patients in rural populations. Telemedicine has evolved to the point where remote diagnosis of illnesses is common and centralized systems allow healthcare providers to monitor patients from a distance. But will it ever replace an actual doctor’s visit? Some, like Cigna CEO and board member Jai Verma, believe we are already headed in this direction thanks to AI, blockchain technology, and the internet of things. At the very least, he believes, these things “are going to change the way we deliver health care in the future.”
Some are concerned that the money being invested in new AI-powered technology will drive up health care costs, though an equally vocal contingent believes these same technologies will be responsible for improved efficiency and lower operating costs. One thing that experts do agree on is the potential for fraud and data privacy leaks. The risks are always going to be higher when information is shared electronically.
Just as the practice of doctors making housecalls is largely obsolete, future generations might one day marvel over the fact that patients once made face-to-face visits with doctors for non-emergency care. But at least for now, that day is far off.