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More or less 17.5 million healthcare workers globally are excluded or otherwise isolated from the actual healthcare system. It represents a major human resource crisis in the medical sector further heightened by ageing and overtired physicians, persisting chronic diseases that’s getting worse with each passing year.
Can artificial intelligence (AI) assist doctors and healthcare professionals thereby easing the hassle? And while a research paper says it’s possible, it still has to go through a long queue of ethical and legal barriers.
Lack of global healthcare personnel is forthcoming
Industry experts are less optimistic when looking at human resource situation in healthcare. The growing tension about off-balanced supply and increasing demand of medical professionals further adds fuel to the fire.
World Health Organisation (WHO) released a report titled Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030which sheds light on lack of healthcare personnel such as physicians, nurses and midwives that’s expected to soar approximately by 10 million by 2030. That said, the U.S. can foresee a shortage of 120,000 physicians by 2030 as per a report published early in April 2018 by Association of American Medical Colleges.
The next 10-to-12 years will be crucial to Southeast Asia that need more or less 5-million more healthcare professionals to meet the shortfall. On the contrary, the Western Pacific zone including China, Japan and South Korea would be missing nearly 1.5 million personnel. The situation in the European Union isn’t too bright as the continent is expected to lack approximately one million health professionals by the year 2020 as estimated by European Union Joint Action on Health Workforce Planning.
The rise in population, ageing and chronic diseases
Day by day, global population is increasing whereas the World Population Counterpredicts that birth rate would be three-times more than death per day. The total population of Earth now is approximately 7.6 billion which is literally insane and rising every day!
Altogether, life expectancy is widening and global population is ageing. Statistical data from World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision revealed total number of elderly of 60 years and above which is expected to grow by 2050 and thrice by 2100.
The need for quality healthcare service is also rising but thanks to digital technology in healthcare including advanced doctor finding apps, diseases are easier to diagnose and treat even in remotest areas where physical reach is either too difficult or impossible.
All these stats outline the growing issues in healthcare as well as wide gap between supply and demand. The crisis in healthcare workforce is mostly due to the ageing populations and imminent need of chronic care, worldwide lack of doctors, ageing and physician’sexhaustion.
Some of the countries are producing higher number medical students to transform their healthcare system in being more effective. Take for instance Singapore which has accepted nearly 110 students in its medical training programme back in 2015. The country’s government also took relevant steps in attracting students during middle of their study programme to pursue their medical career and offer remuneration of approximately $50,000 for all those in their final three years of education.
In the long run however, such an incentive would be unappealing to the medical professional given to the ever rising work pressure and HR crisis in parallel. This is when digital technology, doctor apps powered by Artificial Intelligence comes to save the day.
AI to assist physicians; not replace them
Smart algorithms have the potential to assist medical professional in carving treatment plans and explore the best-suited methods as per the patient’s specific anatomy. They can conveniently take on repetitive and tedious physicians’ tasks so that they can conveniently perform their job and pursue career opportunities.
Certainly, we need to emphasise that medical practice isn’t a linear process. Every single parameter and element cannot be just translated into programme codes but, there’re specific areas where AI can surely improve patient’s outcome and relieve the medical personnel from unnecessary burden.
The application challenges
It’s most unfortunate that AI isn’t a wonder weapon that can solve everything magically; that said, many challenges rise from the technology itself. Then there’s the financial burden on the other hand which is the cost of disruptive technologies which might be too burdensome and exorbitant for undeveloped and underdeveloped countries. In the end, it’ll push these states behind in the healthcare improvement rather than presenting a solution.
The technical and ethical questions that pop up couldn’t be ignored such as:
Although AI is now accepted in almost every industry including healthcare, it’s uncertain if physicians will completely trust the technology in taking critical decisions about patients.
Other questions are on community/society level such as:
To sum it all, Artificial Intelligence could become a powerful tool and resolve crisis in healthcare human resource.