Medicine in the 4th Industrial Revolution: the third entity of the new doctor-patient relationship

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(IFMSA, 2017)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mr Erick Dupont. The writer is and a 3rd year medical student from UFPEL, a federal university from southern Brazil. He is also affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). However, the opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Since its beginning with Hippocrates in Greece, despite its evolutions and breakthroughs, the practice of medicine has always consisted in the relation between both patient and physician.

This once told basis of healthcare is being rewritten by a process called the 4th industry revolution, a term crafted in Germany in 2013 to describe a group of scientific innovations in the field of technology that are already revolutionizing our known world (1). Fortunately, or not, the area of medicine is not being spared.

Differently from the previous industry revolutions, where the man dominated the physical forces of nature, the 4th revolution takes place on the digital field. Among other characteristics, the artificial intelligence is one of the most impressive promises of the revolution. That’s justified by the immensely bigger capability of computer to process data when compared to humans.

Some even dare to say that the future of medicine remains on data processing, and not on the development of new surgeries or medications (2). With this tool at hand, the famous “Dr. Google” could become a reality, bringing diagnosis to a simple touch of a button. However, this new horizon is not bright for everyone.

Most must think that if a computer is able to process tons of data per second, access the latest information available and don’t have the memory bias that human doctors have, the days of sitting in a M.D. waiting room are counted. But that’s not quite right, remaining hope for those who still want to heal people.

All this future seems so promising, but for it become true, there’s a big path yet to be trod. Devices that can remotely monitor and create continuous reports of blood pressure and sugar levels are already among us, but even with the cheapening of the technology, is not yet feasible to substitute the human labor for technological devices.

Besides all the changes that this revolution may bring to the medical market, is beyond discussion that its breakthroughs will benefit the way we deal with health. The possibilities are limitless: mapping every patient’s DNA in order to develop specific medications and also discover genetic diseases; 3D printing personalized prosthesis and even use the Internet of Things to receive constant, instead of transversal, data from patient’s devices are just some of them (3).

The key to a smooth transition into a reality where these gadgets take place is not to compete with them, but to see them as useful and indispensable tools.

As this is an already in motion process, neither health professionals nor students can stay idle. Adaptation is going to be needed, and learn how to use and when to use the new options are duties for all the ones in the health field.

Knowing the basics of informatics is the minimum that can be done in this technology revolution, and if all that is promised become real, new tools wont only be a differential for those physicians that seek them, but will need to be included on a remodeled grade of the medicine course.

References

  1. Valeria Perasso – BBC. What is the 4th industrial revolution – and how it will affect our lifes. October 22nd, 2016.
  2. Jonathan Cohn – The Atlantic. The Robot Will See You Now. March 2013.
  3. Vinod Khosla – Tech crunch. Do we need doctors or algorithms? January 10th, 2012.

About the author

Erick Dupont is a 19 years old man and a 3rd year medical student from UFPEL, a federal university from southern Brazil. He has already been involved in volunteering projects of International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) and now is local exchange officer from IFMSA’s Exchange Program. Currently awaiting his first IFMSA’s exchange, to take place in Germany in February 2017.

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