The FINANCIAL — Can robot doctors and nurses ever replace humans? The jury is still out on that, but an artificial intelligence (AI) ‘robot revolution’ is already sweeping through healthcare.
And even as debate rages in the UK over a post-COVID return to normal face-to-face consultations with family doctors, Dr Alan Stout, of the British Medical Association, said:
“It’s highly unlikely that we will have the desire or the capacity to return to a 100% face-to-face model. The phone-first model and the use of technology will allow surgeries to remain sustainable and accessible and provides a better service than pre-Covid.”
MarketsandMarkets says the AI in healthcare market was worth $4.9 billion in 2020 also creating substantially more value for an overall healthcare industry worth up to $410 billion per year by 2025.
Highlighted failures within traditional healthcare systems during the COVID-19 pandemic have driven AI advances on many fronts towards a better and more sustainable healthcare model.
For instance, health issues can be prevented in the first place by wearables and apps, which can make health recommendations for patients. Devices such as smartwatches and biosensors could also help detect health issues before conditions become critical.
But the next big step is virtual assistants, a market expected to take off in the next decade $2.8 billion by 2027 AI offers healthcare workers more time to focus on patient care and, with more patients willing to use home diagnostics, should enable a more decentralised healthcare system.
Paul Stannard, Chairman of the not-for-profit World Nano Foundation that fosters the nanotechnology sector, which has enabled so many healthcare breakthroughs, said:
“We may be resistant at first but virtual assistance and robotics are the future of healthcare. Japan is leading the way with a government-funded national initiative to develop data-driven AI and internet of things technologies that will increase the efficiency and quality of healthcare delivery.
“AI also offers more precision as it can automate the analysis of test results, while robotics can increase the success rate of surgeries.
Stannard also co-founded the Vector Innovation Fund, which recently launched a $300 million sub-fund for pandemic protection and future healthcare, and he added:
“This pandemic has taught us a lot; we can learn from the flaws it identified and maintain investment in technologies for a more sustainable future in healthcare and prepare and protect ourselves against future pandemics so that we can meet them in a timely, systematic, and calm manner.”
Healthcare is just part of a trend towards more use of AI following the COVID outbreak. According to the Global AI Adoption Index 2021, 43% of IT professionals surveyed say their company has accelerated the rollout of AI due to the pandemic. An NHSX survey of 368 AI developers and procurers also found that the pandemic had helped accelerate progress in some areas.