Financial Times: How smartphones are transforming healthcare

This piece from last weekend’s FT magazine naturally caught my eye. It is rather techno-trumphalist narrative, with a few paragraphs of caveats on data privacy and lack of regulation in this area.However, the first and last quotations are from the CEO of Babylon an “artificially intelligent medical adviser” – the last words being:

But although we will continue to seek out physicians, it will not necessarily be because of their superior clinical skills. “If what you need is to solve a specific clinical problem, a diagnosis, then we can diagnose you better, faster, cheaper than a human doctor can,” Parsa says, with a wry smile. “Five years from now, technologically I do not believe you will have any need to see a human doctor for diagnosis… there is no scientific reason”

He would say that, wouldn’t he?

I’ve written before on the (much superior) Nature piece on “The Wild West of Health” care and have dashed off a few lines to the FT magazine on the lack of mention of the importance of clinical engagement. The piece is worth reading however, my allergy to mention of “transforming” and “revolutionising” healthcare

 

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Random thoughts on the media and healthcare

Every so often some one wonders aloud where there isn’t more good news reported. The BBC host Martyn Lewis , for instance, has been prominent in this, no doubt tired of having to read out news scripts full of doom and gloom during his career. Indeed, I discovered when looking up Martyn Lewis’ stance the site Positive News, which is all about Positive News.

And yet, the Daily Mail – which whatever else one can say, does not exactly put a positive, shiny, happy spin on the news – is the world’s most popular news website. We may say otherwise when asked, but we are drawn to the disastrous and doomy, or at least what can be portrayed as disastrous and doomy.

 

Someone – maybe Neil Postman – once observed that trust in media tends to erode dramatically when one considers the media coverage of something one actually knows about. If the media doesn’t get My Area right, why should I trust them on economics, or politics, or healthcare? This is even more pronounced in the current age where high-quality information on any technical topic is easily accessible with a little effort; the oft-lazy, unnuanced approach of much media. This is the other side of the clickbait we are drowning in.

In health care, there are a vast amount of interactions the vast majority of which are unremarkable or positive. Yet these don’t – and probably will never – get reported. Positive initiatives will get some media coverage  but this will be drowned out by controversy and scandal. This is the way of the world, and clearly has a role in ensuring good practice. One must also recognise, however, that this can distort our view not only of healthcare practice but of what we want to achieve. “Staying out of the papers” becomes an aim in itself, and leads to a reluctance to engage in any positive discourse for fear of being portrayed as pollyannaish or indifferent.

Interestingly, as a coda to these brief thoughts, consistently polls in Ireland find that doctors are the most trusted profession – in 2016 and in 2011. The comparative figures for other professions – especially the media and TDs – are interesting!