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Will people turn to technology for medical guidance?


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UPDATED

05 JUN 2019


While there is an increasingly desperate need to lower pressure on the NHS, no one is sure what to do to achieve this aim. With a growing population and a population that is ageing, more people require medical support and attention. With a fall in medical professionals, the outcome is a challenging situation, and many people are looking towards technology in the hope of finding a solution to the NHS’ problems.

The University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) Trust is undertaking an innovative test that is sure to be of interest to many people. The Trust will encourage millions of patients to access digital technology. This technology will determine how ill a patient is and inform them whether they require medical assistance.

There is a need to reduce impact on A&E departments

The aim of this technological drive is to reduce the impact on A&E departments and to filter outpatient appointments. People in Birmingham are advised to go online and use chat services, manned by automated and live professionals, video consultations and online symptom checks to ascertain whether they require medical assistance or not.

The hope is that people who think they need to visit will clarify their symptoms online and the “artificial intelligence triage” will inform them whether they should obtain medical treatment. It’s also hoped people will be able to speak with consultants over the phone, alleviating a lot of the pressure of people attending at a hospital.

There are two sides to this technological development. If there is a reduction in the number of people attending hospital, it should alleviate pressure. Anything which takes some of the stress and strains away from medical professionals is a positive thing. However, there will be growing concerns as to whether people are receiving a suitable level of healthcare.

Will people receive a suitable level of healthcare support?

It is likely most people who use the new system will receive a suitable standard of treatment, but there are concerns as to what this system misses. It is often difficult for people to articulate their pain or problems, and if they cannot offer an accurate reflection of their problem, they may not receive the right guidance or advice. Given the importance of people’s health, this is an issue that needs to be resolved.

Dr David Rosser is the Chief Executive of the Trust trialling this scheme, and he said; “The way patients access and receive healthcare in Birmingham will be unrecognisable in five to 10 years, with technology playing a hugely enhanced role. This is the first case of technology of this kind being deployed at such a scale to aid the hospital sector.”

At Atlantis Medical, we are all for anything which provides people with healthcare services while reducing the pressure on medical professionals. However, while technology is crucial in creating a better standard of service, a lot of work must be undertaken in helping people feel comfortable.

A lot of people will not feel confident or happy in using an online system to check their symptoms, and the uplift may not be as active as hoped.

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