Virtual Health Assistants Will Reshape Healthcare
In the healthcare industry, the dependence on medical technology cannot be overstated, and as a result of the development of innovations,healthcare practitioners can continue to find ways to improve their practice – from better diagnosis, surgical procedures, and improved patient care. As the direction of automated continuous primary care moves into a new era, virtual personal health assistants (VPHAs) could replace the human interface, and do a superior job, according to Gartner. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 50 percent of the population will rely on VPHAs for primary care, finding them more responsive and accurate than their human counterparts.
“There is significant evidence that the majority of primary healthcare visits are of little value to the patient, and represent a massive drain on trained physician time. Physician demand is outpacing supply, begging the need for alternatives,” said Laura Craft, research director at Gartner. “Technology has advanced to the point where computers have become superior to the human mind; they are more accurate and consistent, and they are better at processing all the determinants of health and well-being than even the best of doctors.”
Health monitoring devices that gather health data from people are the beginning of the journey away from in-person exams and diagnoses to remote and virtual monitoring. VPHAs will become the referee of all data and information and will be the interface for communicating with people on health, wellness advice and recommendations based on the processing of the data collected and the individual’s health goals and needs.
“Leading indicators prove that technology has advanced in this direction, and mainstream maturity is likely within 15 years,” said Craft. “Eliminating the physician for annual exams and primary health will happen, but, we need to recognize that this is a radical departure from primary care today. New channels of medical care create the need for changes in behavior, thinking, and perhaps even law. However, many barriers that might have been perceived as obstacles are already fading.”
There are many indicators that show that people are adopting technology to track and manage their health and are moving past reliance on the physician for all things medical. The internet, wearables, and health and wellness apps are helping people to manage their health and are providing unprecedented access to a lot of medical information. Additionally, the millennial generation has a very different relationship with technology than its parents and grandparents, and is much more likely to use an app over a human interface.
Medical errors will likely be reduced once human judgement is taken out of the equation. Once smart machines — powered by precisionalgorithms — take over, the entire notion of what constitutes medical malpractice will change.
These new technologies do need to be regulated and there will be diversity from country to country in what the standards are. However, the regulatory barriers for getting devices to market are no different than getting innovative drugs and therapies approved today.
Smart machines, virtual personal assistants and personal health hubs are just a part of a much bigger picture of how healthcare will be funded in the future. Globally, the shift toward population health management programs that emphasize lower costs, improved quality, decreased disparity and increased access, and a better experience for the patient incentivizes the use of technology to stay healthy and be connected to a care network.
“Technology will not replace the primary tier of medicine for everyone. Primary care physicians will be needed to care for the chronically ill, the elderly, and special needs patients to coordinate their care and the more complex care plans their conditions call for. But for the vast majority, replacing primary and routine care with technology is within our grasp and a highly likely possibility,” said Craft.
“People will come to prefer their VPHA to a primary care physician and will develop the same, or perhaps a better, relationship with it. It will be more accurate, more responsive and more personal. In fact, most medical professionals we shared this notion with, ultimately agreed — it’s in the future; it’s inevitable.”
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