Following what probably could be described as one of the most challenging times in contemporary medical and care times, the way in which technology has facilitated these industries to adapt to the challenges brought by the pandemic is undeniable. The digitalization of certain processes as a response to the challenges brought by the rapid spread of the virus, have resulted in the emergence of certain benefits from increased efficiency, timesaving or convenience. As restrictions are now being lifted and life is slowly returning to a glimpse of what previously was considered normal, a decision needs to be made on whether the digitalization of certain processes will remain in place following the lifting of restrictions. This resulted in the argument for digitalization, despite being an old one, re-gaining traction.
As argued in the first chapter, attitudes towards a greater integration of technology within health and care industries are slowly becoming more in favour of digitalization than previously. However, as everyone is being more inclined towards a further modernising of medical and care processes, the argument has now centred around just how much of a transformation should these processes undergo. This is the point where opinions have started to spread across the field.
One side of the argument acknowledges the benefits brought by technology during last year and would be willing to accept that some of the digital processes previously implemented to continue to function. While this side of the argument supports pro views towards digitalizing certain processes which will enhance the delivery of medical and care services, they are still reluctant to accept a great or complete digitalization of healthcare. Their reluctancy however does not mean that they oppose any innovations. Many of the people adopting this side of the argument, would like any digital processes or innovations involving technology to be rigorously tested, approved and regulated prior to them being implemented.
The other side of the argument supports an exclusively pro view regarding a greater technology adoption within the health and care industries. Here an argument is being made completely in favour of a great technology integration. By looking carefully at groups who support this side of the argument, another split of opinions could potentially be observed. On one hand, we have those who acknowledge the opportunity of using real-time data and smart devices alongside other technology tools, in order to try and improve both the health and care systems. This side understands that technology could bring several innovations and enhance the way in which healthcare works, as well as understanding that a great technology adoption requires studying, testing, approval and regulation.
On the other side of the argument which supports an exclusively pro view towards technology integration, we find those who are asking for a complete digital revolution of the healthcare industry. Here we encounter mentions of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics or Internet of Things as possible solutions to the many problems the health and care industry currently presents. From calls to disrupt the healthcare industry, to advocating how robots could transform care and solve the problem of understaffing, many of these ideas have started to increasingly circulate since the start of the pandemic.
The argument for digitalization has therefore taken a different turn. As undeniable as it is, technology has proven to be very beneficial and should become more of a tool in the delivery of care services. Using the way in which the medical services have acted during the pandemic and how fast certain processes were adopted to build an argument for a greater transformation of medical processes is well-expected. On the other hand, using this example to advocate the disruption of an industry with tools the likes of Artificial Intelligence or Internet of Things is a completely different argument which we shall examine below and in Chapter 3.
The reasoning behind the previous point, is made even by those asking for disruption, as technology has been seen only replicating physical processes. There is however a massive difference between technologies which were used in health and care during the pandemic, and other superior technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things. Over the last 5 years plenty of articles and interviews with healthcare experts started predicting a future where the value chain of the health and care industry is shifting its model from a labour-driven and technology-enabled one to a technology-driven and human-enabled one. However, from here onwards a split of opinion could be identified, as while one side sees technology as complementing piece to how care is being delivered, others have spoken about how digital technologies such as AI and The Internet of Things will replace human labour in care work.
This prediction of how technology, AI and robots will replace human labour in health and care work has determined many studies and articles to be written, raising the question of can technology care? Some of these studies will be introduced in the upcoming chapters as an attempt to offer an answer to the previous question. For now however, it is worth mentioning that previous points advocating, predicting and encouraging the disruption of the health and care services has been happening for some time now.
The pandemic could be argued has now facilitated disruption advocates with a tangible example of how technology successfully helped the heath and care industries. An example which, could potentially be used to argue for the implementation of technologies far superior to the ones which we’ve actually seen at work.
What is definitely known is that technology will continue to play a major role in health and care going forward. The impressive adoption of the NHS app, which allows access to a range of services digitally, an increased use of using e-prescription services and growing positive attitudes towards online consultations could be considered factors demonstrating that people are becoming more accustomed to technology being integrated within care. However, it is also important to mention that all these changes as well as their impressive adoption came as a result of an unexpected global event and were not made out of choice. Therefore, there isn’t currently enough evidence present to assume that if the pandemic completely finished today people will definitely want to continue accessing services remotely, moreover, being care for by Artificial Intelligence.
In conclusion, as the argument for digitalization will probably intensify, careful attention should be paid to how much should the health and care industry integrate technology. Innovations and disruptions should therefore be carefully analysed and studied before being implemented, in order to ensure a future of care based firstly on person-centred care, rather than convenience.