Please take a seat…the Robot will see you next

The future of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare – how far will we go?

Picture this, you walk into your local Accident and Emergency department and you scan you ID badge and the hospital computer takes your name, your ID number and all your credentials such as your date of birth, all your allergies, medications you take and your past medical history. You take a seat and a tannoy calls your name and asks you to come to the triage area. You then walk into a full body scanner, where you get a complete full body scan and a diagnosis that’s sure to be 99.9% correct. Within seconds, perhaps minutes you are told of exactly what’s wrong with you and what you need. Antibiotics? Painkillers? Anti-inflammatories? Your robot doctor will tell you exactly what you are suffering from and what your body needs to restore it to full health.

You then get a full diagnosis and are issued a prescription.

You take your prescription to the pharmacy and the system scans it. Voila! Your robot pharmacist dispenses your medication and gives you a full description of each drug and what its for and how to take it. You walked into the A&E department 20 mins ago and now you’re out without having spoken to one single person, well one human person.

Ok…. well maybe this scenario is a little far fetched for now, but already the giant leap in Artificial intelligence (A.I.) implementation around us will actually make this seem like this process is just round the corner.

A.I. has been dubbed as the fourth revolution, building on the technological third revolution and is being described as the fusion between the digital, biological, physical and technological worlds. Klaus Schwab, founder of the world economic forum and author of best selling book ‘the fourth revolution’ puts it as challenging ideas on what it means to be a human.

With the three previous revolutions having had a massive impact on the world economically, socially and politically, the fourth revolution is set to blow this off the charts, totally. The fact that it is developing at an exponential speed and not a linear speed when compared to the other three revolutions says it all.

A.I. in healthcare has been one of the areas where it has been slow to catch on, but quick to see the potential benefits. In comparison other areas such as; the corporate world, the social media world, personal assistants and virtual shopping which have been using A.I. in their systems for a while including in augmented reality systems.

And, another big area. Surprisingly the world of news… for example did you know that quite a few big news outlets are creating news reports without any human input. Yep, the New York Times and Reuters for example are generating some of their news reports using data only and not human research. Brings a whole new meaning to “fake news”

A.I.’s development in the healthcare setting is predicted to bring about unprecedented changes in the health and wellbeing arena. Including in the areas of diagnosis, treatment plans, health anaylsis, data collection and storage.  For it to succeed and bring about positive results there needs to be big elements of trust and confidence ( from the patient and the practitioner/ clinician) in its implementation and lots of trial and error  processes to ensure that there is no potential for things going drastically wrong.

I’ve been interested in the digital and analysis implementation of A.I. in healthcare for a while and have been following the interest. I can really see lots of beneficial impacts from using A.I. in vast number of areas in this however, I’m a little uncomfortable in using virtual assistants and perhaps robots to communicate with patients, particularly during check ups and follow ups. It just doesn’t seem right.

I mean, how much human interaction do we need when it comes to our health, how much does a kind word and concern from your doctor, nurse, pharmacist or healthcare professional put you at ease and improve your health. There is a well-documented direct correlation between loneliness and bad health, depression and ill health. We also know that many mental health breakdowns and illnesses stem from being isolated, not being heard and not being spoken to. Having an online assistant or robot assessing your mental state directly or indirectly linked to your physical health may mean that potentially we can be wrongly diagnosing patients or making their health worse. I mean how can a virtual assistant know that you are sad, depressed, anxious etc. Also imagine if you had to be told bad news from a robot? How will the virtual assistant comfort you and put your mind at ease.


I’m all for improved patient safety, reduction in medication errors and improved diagnostic skills but how far will the rise of artificial intelligence go? Growing up in the 80’s and watching sci fi films such as Terminator makes me a little skynet paranoid. Lets see where this wave takes us.


Would love to hear your views!

Maiya Ahmed, Clinical pharmacist

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