The Future of Healthcare
Bay Alarm Medical
August 11, 2018
Gone are the days of treatments such as heroin-infused cough syrup. From where we stand now, it’s easy to scoff at the relative absurdity of old-timey medical treatments – but doesn’t that make you wonder which current medical practices will be looked back on as dubious a few hundred years from now?
If one thing is for sure, nothing can stop health care technology from marching forward. In 2018 alone, we are expected to blow the lid off gene therapy, sleep apnea treatment, and the creation of an artificial pancreas. Chief among these promising advancements is the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) to modern medicine.
One of AI’s biggest advantages is a capacity to develop a bank of knowledge over time, using a process called “machine learning.” In the world of health care, this capability has the potential to open the door to unprecedented advancements, many of which include building on the knowledge of doctors and specialists to refine the way we diagnose patients – and the accuracy and efficiency with which we do so.
At a time when the current state of national health care is stoking the flames of controversy, this is as critical a time as ever to begin exploring the ways in which telemedicine, artificial intelligence, and big data can shape the future of human health.
We surveyed 1,003 individuals to dig deep into Americans’ perceptions of the future of health care, including their willingness to rely on emerging technology, their views on moving toward artificial intelligence, and the many ways in which politics and medicine are intertwined.
It’s a reality that is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore: Even with an insurance plan, many Americans simply cannot afford to go to the doctor. In the face of costly deductibles and a widespread lack of liquid funds to cover the cost of an emergency, people are going so far as to turn to crowdfunding campaigns to pay for their medical treatment.
Health-related fundraisers make up nearly half the campaigns on both GoFundMe and YouCaring, demonstrating a significant reliance on other people’s kindness to accomplish something as simple as getting medical treatment. So, what if there was a cheaper way?
Nearly 2 in 5 Americans said they would opt for an artificial intelligence doctor over a human doctor if it was a cheaper option. While the AI-friendly group was indeed a minority, these numbers do call into question how many people would be open to this alternative if it was more mainstream.
In the future, we may begin to see an increasing number of innovations and resources that have the potential to drive down the cost of health care, especially thanks to quickly-evolving technologies: AI that can generate medical hypotheses, large-scale data collection that can create connections between correlated incidents, 3D-printed tissue and organs … the possibilities are endless.
Robot or No-Bot?
On the whole, those who’ve had previous surgeries were more open to the idea of having a procedure led by a robotic surgeon. Fear of having an operation is a very real affliction, and it is possible that the fear of the unknown might compel those who have not yet experienced surgery to stick to more traditional methods.
Americans were most receptive to trying a robotic surgeon during a procedure that involves removing foreign material from a wound or burn. In a close second was laser eye surgery, followed by tumor removal and skin grafting.
The surveyed population was least on board with robotic surgeons when it came to cosmetic procedures like breast augmentation and rhinoplasty, as well as very intimate operations like cesarean section or mastectomy.
Currently, development of robotic surgery is in its infancy, but the future is bright: Some predict that this technology will open the door to smaller margins of error and increasingly precise procedures. However, certain ethical and practical considerations need to be taken into account before moving forward: What if the machinery experienced a breach and was able to be controlled remotely? Is it OK to test this technology on humans?
Telemedicine for the Masses
The ability for doctors to communicate with their patients has been touted as a very important skill and an essential step toward creating a comfortable environment. Given the overwhelming importance of body language in effective communication and the ability to perform a physical examination, what happens when your doctor isn’t in front of you? Are people willing to chat with their specialist on the web instead?
For some people, it was a deal breaker. In fact, the top reason respondents had not seen a virtual doctor was due to a preference to communicate in person, to the tune of 31 percent. Twenty-eight percent of people who hadn’t seen a virtual doctor were actually open to the idea of utilizing one in future, and another 20 percent did not feel they could be properly examined via computer.
Meanwhile, the most celebrated “pros” about seeing an online medical specialist included convenient hours (30 percent), saving time (25 percent), and saving money (19 percent).
Millennials have been shown to have a robust sense of trust in technology, which may account for roughly one-third of them having swapped their traditional setup for an online doctor. Meanwhile, older demographics are more likely to be wary of submitting their personal details or giving away sensitive information to someone they cannot see.
However, 53 percent of respondents say they still trust private enterprise companies to safeguard their health data. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica and Equifax data breach scandals, it remains to be seen whether these sentiments will shift over time, or whether people will simply hope for the best and proceed with caution when dealing with personal information.
Dissatisfaction breeds innovation, and can often push individuals to try something they haven’t already explored as they pursue various solutions. With the Trump administration currently poised to continue rolling back Obamacare, Americans’ opinions about the state of national health care are souring.
The immediate future of Americans as it relates to health care includes a few other tenets of the proposed health care reform, like creating an out-of-pocket maximum that would cap the amount older Americans would have to pay for their medication, cutting benefits for those who cannot prove their immigration status, and removing the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ) due to reported redundancy.
During both the Obama and Trump administrations, the majority of respondents were dissatisfied with the health care system at large. However, the dissatisfied/satisfied split was 51/30 percent during Obama’s presidency, compared to 66/12 percent in the era of Trump.
Will this translate to a surge of individuals turning to alternative solutions? One 2017 survey of health care providers found that three-quarters of its respondents either currently offered or planned to offer telemedicine as a service. To put that in context, in 2014, 87 percent of that same group of respondents did not feel confident that their patients would turn to telemedicine by 2017, indicating a much higher demand than foreseen.
AI to the Rescue?
It’s well known that one of the biggest hurdles Americans face regarding access to health care is cost. In 2016, the average per-person cost of medical care was over $10,000, a number that is only expected to increase (to put that into perspective, the average per-person cost in the 1960s was $146, which is still nine times higher than current numbers when adjusted for inflation).
In the face of rising costs, at least half of Americans from various political affiliations were prepared to vote for legislation that would provide free health care via AI: 74 percent of Democrats, 62 percent of Independents, and 51 percent of Republicans were in the “yes” camp.
For those pro-AI respondents, there is good news: AI has already stepped onto the medical scene and is showing a promising capacity to diagnose patients and contribute to the health care process in preliminary tests. One study found that AI software could predict heart disease more accurately than a human doctor 80 percent of the time. Another “smart microscope” was able to sort bacteria from 25,000 different slides with 95 percent accuracy.
On the other hand, people were receptive to (but less enthusiastic about) implementing single-payer health care. Sixty-nine percent of Democrats, 49 percent of Independents, and 35 percent of Republicans were on board with the idea, which sees the government providing health care adopted this structure, among many other countries.
We are on the cusp of a number of major advancements where technology and medicine intersect. With the next generation of patients more receptive than ever to exploring future-forward alternatives, there is no limit to the leaps and bounds that the next few years and decades may have in store.
The expectation of lowered health care costs, more precise surgeries, quicker and more accurate diagnoses, and more in-depth analyses are all incredibly promising prospects, and huge steps toward a more accessible, efficient medical system.
At Bay Alarm Medical, we bring the things that matter most to you – family, health, and independence – together with powerful technology to keep you and your loved ones safe. Considered one of the most affordable and reliable medical alert devices on the market today, we want you to have peace of mind with the quality protection you deserve, now and in the future. Visit us at BayAlarmMedical.com to learn more.
We surveyed 1,003 respondents on their sentiments about the future of health care in America. Five hundred participants identified as men, 501 identified as women, and two identified as a gender not listed in our study. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 75. We weighted the data to the 2016 U.S. census for gender, age, state, and political affiliation.
There was one attention check within the survey; respondents who failed it were disqualified from the survey, and their responses were not recorded.
It is possible that with more participants, we could have gained more insight into respondents. The data we are presenting rely on self-reporting. No statistical testing was performed, so the claims listed above are based on means alone. As such, this content is exploratory.
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