21 May 2024

The robot will see you now – but the future of health is still human

| The European |

The future of health has never been more exciting. We are at the leading-edge of a transformation in healthcare, where newly empowered and health-literate patients are able to take control of their own health at the touch of a button.

A recent report we commissioned at Bupa Global, “The Future of Health”, assessed the impact of technology on the healthcare industry, investigating which services are most susceptible to digital disruption, and conversely, where the human touch is most valued. It looked at the technologies on the horizon and tested them against public opinion to envisage which might see the greatest uptake.

The findings were fascinating – the most popular potential technology is focused on some of the most urgent, non-communicable health crises, involving genetic modification to reduce the risk of diseases like dementia or cancer. Another popular idea was that of geo-location technology, which would help people to avoid communicable diseases, combining “infection stats” with geo-location data held in our smartphones to avoid contact with sufferers. 

Of course, these technologies haven’t been invented yet – but you could say that they are not far off. With businesses, and even governments and public health systems, using digital health initiatives like telemedicine, the speed of integration of tech-based products and services into the healthcare system has been dazzling.

However, whilst a range of future technologies were welcomed, the majority of people stated that human involvement was still the most important factor when it comes to healthcare, and many claimed to be comfortable with using health technology, as long as there is a human involved at some stage.

This is accurate, as well as comforting. Whilst there are incredible advancements being made in medicine and healthcare, and we should embrace these potentially life-changing technologies, we must be careful to understand the limitations of what is possible without human input. Tech can enable us to know, diagnose and understand what is happening in our bodies, but that knowledge must be interpreted by a trained eye to be useful and safe. It is heartening that we still believe human involvement is key.

Bupa Global’s “The Future of Health” report has been released to celebrate Bupa Global’s sponsorship of the Barbican’s annual flagship exhibition, “AI: More Than Human”, exploring the evolution of the relationship between humans and technology.

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