Virtual visits, digital doctors, automatic operating machines, implanted health monitoring sensors or robots as carers – many people are afraid of this vision of a future where the machine does away with man, while omnipresent sensors and systems optimise our life. Are these fears well-founded?
Not everyone looks on healthcare technologies positively. What comes to their minds are robots incapable of empathy, a lack of personal contact with a doctor, and the reduction of the patient to a medical procedure and statistical disease number. Will we entrust our arm to a machine so that it can sample our blood as we do with an experienced nurse? Will we allow a robot to stitch up our wound without engaging medical staff throughout the procedure? Will we accept the doctor’s virtual presence at our bedside during their rounds? Will we have a sensor collecting data on our health parameters implanted without worrying about data transmission safety?
Numerous technologies are so ground-breaking that it is difficult to understand their meaning and influence on our everyday life, which stirs up negative emotions and instils fear. The dynamics of change and progress is unprecedented in the history of mankind, and it is not only about single inventions but the holistic transformation of healthcare. Until now entirely based on the knowledge and experience of man, it now begins to rely on artificial intelligence to make decisions. Let us take the example of automatic machines sampling blood for lab tests. How will our attitude change if they become more precise than the human hand, therefore minimising potential complications, pain and guaranteeing 100% precision and safety? Will personal emotions still be more important than medical facts?
Health is the most important value for each and every one of us, and this fact will lead even the staunchest of conservatives to embracing methods today viewed as controversial or dehumanising of healthcare. DNA information assigned to one’s health account? By all means, if it prevents the development of hereditary diseases. Medical consultations with a system available from an app instead of talking to one’s doctor? Of course, as it becomes a more convenient alternative quickly providing necessary assistance. Robots equipped with artificial intelligence to keep the elderly company? Yes, as even conversation with a machine is better than loneliness. And so on.
Everyone would like to live the longest life possible in the best health. This will be possible in the decades to come, first and foremost due to technologies, artificial intelligence and robotics. In the name of the highest values and priorities, even the most soulless of innovations will be welcomed with enthusiasm. What is at stake is also the quality of treatment and the minimising of the negative effects of staff shortages in healthcare.