High tech vs high touch: What matters more in healthcare?
The world is far from done with the digital revolution. Every day, there is news about how advanced technologies will disrupt and change our future in multiple aspects from work and leisure to the various fields of education, healthcare, transport and more.
In medicine, a lot has been said about how technology is the way forward for healthcare. Many futurists predict that ultra-advanced and innovative technology like holography, machine learning and artificial intelligence will revolutionise the way we treat and heal patients. How wonderful to think that technology is a silver bullet for the healthcare crises that mankind faces.
However, while these moonshot technologies are headline grabbing and indeed have tremendous potential, they look forward so far into the future that it is difficult to grasp how they can be applied and of use today. The reality is that what is needed to make an impact right now on daily life is often a lot less complicated. Take for instance Rocket Fund, a crowdfunding site that is meant to help schools in the United Kingdom fund innovative technology by getting teachers and parents to contribute money to obtain virtual reality headsets, 3D printers and robots. But what really happened was that some educators were using the site to raise funds for basics like pencils and school excursions because they were faced with tight budget cuts.
The bottom line is that quick fix technology is nothing without the human touch. This is the same in healthcare too. On a daily basis at the ground level, like what happens at so many healthcare providers including hospitals, clinics and Speedoc, our key concern is to spend time caring for and healing our patients.
We are proud to make use of the latest technologically advanced innovations in our work but for us, this has to be always employed in the service of patient care. This means we are careful to harness technology that solves an identified problem and that offers benefits in the here and not, or at least in the foreseeable future.
This is not without precedent. There are multiple examples around the world that show that you do not need frontier, boundary pushing technology to make a difference. In Uganda, an app Mobile VRS was implemented to encourage birth registrations, which increased from 28 per cent to 70 per cent. This led to a dramatic improvement in healthcare services such as vaccinations for children because now, medical practitioners knew where these children were located within the country. Technology helped to solve a root problem, which in turn led naturally to solutions that benefited the population.
We are living in times when it can seem like high tech is in direct opposition to high touch. That is untrue. Instead of disrupting for disruption’s sake, scientific and technological advancement should be looked at through a human lens. In this way, we can work to make patient care better and more accessible exactly where it matters – in the here and now.