Recently, I read an article in the New York Post around the delivery of healthcare through technology. In this article, it cites a situation in Florida, where a patient was informed of a terminal prognosis from a specialist on via a TV screen.
It got me thinking more broadly about the ever changing role of technology, not only in health care, but in our everyday interactions with each other; the companies that we use as consumers and our future relationships with them.
What started as mild frustration around a recorded voice giving me a never ending list of options of why I might be calling, before I could speak to anyone, has more broadly started to infiltrate many aspects my daily life. The world we live in has changed, and sometimes maybe not for the better. There are less bank branches, our retail stores are struggling, our usage of packaging has exponentially increased, as has plastic usage and in many ways, I can see a correlation with the advancement of technology into our day to day lives.
If I bring it back to the healthcare profession, technology no doubt has many benefits that we have started and are still yet to realise fully in many applications. From less human error and greater precision in surgery, to evidence based diagnoses and the development of medical devices that continue to increase our quality of life whilst the average lifespan continues to rise. Technology has also impacted things such as development of pharmaceuticals, giving us greater genetic insight and improving the way we research illnesses and diseases.
There is no doubt that telemedicine has transformed access to healthcare for those in isolated or remote locations.
It also has had some downsides. Suicide levels continue to rise and more and more evidence is being discovered linking these levels as we become a more technology driven society. The social norms we aspire to are not always as they seem (some interesting reading on this can be found here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3477910/ with credit to Dr David D Luxton).
Also in healthcare; as I referenced at the start of the blog, at what point do we recognise that emotional, more caring side of the human interactions cannot be replaced? The digital revolution is here, but it cannot replace one of the most central elements to healthcare and patient outcomes; empathy.
The thought of being informed of ones impending demise via video link is not an easy pill to swallow.
Put simply, in my opinion, the human element of many services we use is absolutely critical to a better outcome, whether that be for the individual or the ones we leave behind. What started as pressing 1 to speak to an automated voice, has developed faster than I ever thought and it’s now cemented into many parts of our lives, now and into the future.