Photo by Maxim Tolchinskiy on Unsplash
By Osagie Fadaka
My recent piece about how Artificial Intelligence(AI) and Robotics are aiding health practitioners today set me researching where this section of the digital revolution we live under right now will take us.
To look at this, I checked out a company presently providing services to the UK National Health Service and how they predict their provisions to grow. I was initially struck by how these new ways were spread globally. The knowledge from the people involved and their countries of origin had so obviously assisted the growth of this particular company. This is where cloud computing is taking the developed countries already.
Their whole terminology had a new language almost; I like to call it ‘Digispeak.’ However, it was apparent to read that not just Covid affected speeding up much of the changes, not only in things like vaccine discovery and production thereof but to assist Doctors at the sharp end of the business. I won’t quote the company name, but this is an extract from their website: “ The NHS and life sciences companies need to update their electronic workflows to support Covid-19 initiatives, scale virtual care, provide real-time operational insights, update infrastructure to manage increased loads and ensure cybersecurity risks are resolved. The biggest challenge is to resolve the capacity gaps that put these needs at risk.”
That gobbledygook shows where they lead the Health Service drive to modernize and assist doctors.
To update electronic workflows means the professional has to follow a system and keep records in the same format. Doctors are being controlled, not allowed to make their judgments, maybe? People called Data Managers interpret the information and pass this on to the Doctors.
To scale virtual care means online and fewer personal visits.
To provide real-time operational insights means what? I’m not sure, but I can assume that they represent that someone will be at the end of a video call or similar for advice to the professional. Or will that mean checking their coverage for insurance purposes in the future?
Updating infrastructure will mean increasing their equipment and use of AI to increase their own business.
Resolving capacity gaps means getting them more business also.
These companies are self-perpetuating and actively encouraged by the government, which is desperate to cut the costs of healthcare provision to the state and let private businesses run the whole show.
Covid has allowed the government to speed up these reforms to privatize the National Health Services.
I read recently that the government is saving billions of pounds in pension payments because of the number of elderly who passed away during the pandemic. The cynical me thinks that maybe that drove the then Prime Minister Johnson to say, “Let the virus rip” or “Let the bodies pile high.”
We all felt the struggle to get an appointment with our GP during the pandemic, and even I had to get innovative to get some attention. I am not one to go to the doctors or hospital about anything if possible, but I had a particular concern about an increase in some skin afflictions in moles and warts and wanted a personal inspection to know if there were any worries about malignancy. My local GP Surgery had a large poster at the reception encouraging online treatment. I did as advised but overstated my anxiety and mental state then. By the afternoon, I had a call on my mobile phone and asked if I could get to the surgery within a half-hour. I did; I was seen and reassured quickly and efficiently. However, I know of many older residents who have been unable to get checked out because they are unfamiliar with the internet or how to use any computer or smartphone.
Earlier, I had what I thought was a reaction to the first vaccine jab, again a line of what looked like moles or hives in my groin. I was advised online to take photographs on my smartphone and send them to the doctor, who prescribed me a regular fungal cream treatment, which was very successful. My wife had another small problem, but she would never have been able to do something similar without my assistance. For my age, I am well versed in technology because of my previous career, but I find that my skills are rare in the over 60’s, especially in many of the women who have been housewives for most of their lives. They had no interest or need to learn and still regarded a phone as something to make voice calls.
Technology will eventually improve, and I’m sure that with videos and software that can sense and smell, most of us will not have to leave our homes for treatment. Instead, a form of scanner will send all the necessary information to your doctor.
We can probably plug ourselves into some diagnostic machine as mechanics do now with cars.
Treatment will be performed for the more serious operations similarly.
Available now to engineers worldwide are things like Augmented Reality Glasses whereby an expert at the end of a computer screen somewhere in the world can see what you are doing with your hands. Less skill will be needed by the person treating you because they will be instructed how to operate, step by step, by a computer many miles away.
More from that company website shows where current thinking is leading. This is about results and cost savings. “Digital re-imagination isn’t just about now. It’s about building an agile, more intelligent, and high-performing NHS that drives results in the long-term.”
Nothing wrong with that, you might think, but who will pay? I cannot believe that our government will fund this without private industry’s help, and they will want a return on any investment far more significant than the NHS can afford under its present funding.