The technology landscape is constantly changing and improving our lives. One area technology has grown significantly in recent years is the medical fields. From the availability of online medication to the use of artificial intelligence and robots to help with surgery and diagnosis, the innovative ways in which the healthcare landscape is adopting and benefiting from these technologies is undeniably changing lives.
In a 2016 study by PushDoctor, it was found that 61% of the UK access healthcare services online through their smartphone, tablet or computer. The most common use case of online healthcare is to order repeat prescription, constituting 29% of respondents.
The study highlighted a divide between the north and south of England, indicating that the north are less likely to utilise the access of online medical records (10% and 23% respectively), order repeat prescriptions online (28% and 32% respectively) or attend a video consultation with a GP (13% and 25% respectively).
Surprisingly, it was found that those aged 45+ are more likely to use online healthcare services due to the convenience they offer, especially for those who are abroad. 38% of over 55s use the internet to order repeat prescriptions, while only 13% of this age group use online consultations.
In a broader study conducted by in the US by consulting company Accenture, there were some significant changes both in the adoption of various consumer healthcare technologies (such as wearables and apps) and the changes in attitudes towards the importance and reliance on these technologies.
The use of mobile devices to manage healthcare rose by 10% from 2016 to 2018 while the use of traditional websites dropped by 2%. And though the adoption of wearable devices grew by 7%, the statistics reflected in the study indicated that people were 2% less likely to wear a wearable device which tracked vital signs (e.g heart rate, body temperature) or fitness and lifestyle traits (e.g distance walked, sleep patterns).
It was also revealed that people were 2% more willing to have a quicker virtual consultation than a slower in-person consultation.
One of the newest and arguably most exciting advancements in the technology industry is Artificial Intelligence (AI). It's believed that machine-learning and deep-learning can provide patients with a quick and convenient diagnosis, without them reading misguided information about their symptoms from a search engine. With plenty of hype surrounding the benefits of algorithmic healthcare, it's easy to overlook one glaring shortcoming.
"Fortunately for doctors, however, computers have yet to demonstrate the kind of empathy and compassion that millions of patients rely on in their medical care." reassures Doctor Robert Pearl, a professor at the University of Stanford.
Going back to the study from Accenture, when asked why respondents would not use an AI-powered health service, almost 30% said that they prefer to see a doctor. When it comes to surgery performed by an AI driven robot, the study identified that people aged between 18 and 44 are more inclined to the idea than those aged 45 and above. While the researchers did not divulge into the reason behind this, it is easy to assume that those surveyed believed that AI lacked the compassionate care that many doctors provide to patients.
It's difficult to ignore the ways in which new advancements in technology are greatly affecting medical science and challenging the ways in which patients receive care.