Changing for the change: Medicine in Industry 4.0

Industry 4 World Economic Forum

(World Economic Forum. 2017)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ms Maria Khan. The writer is a student of third year MBBS at Army medical college and a proud member of AMSA and IFMSA-Pakistan for the past three years. She 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.

“Industrie 4.0” or the fourth industrial revolution originated from a project of the German government based on interoperability, information transparency, technical assistance and decentralized decisions. After the previous revolutions involving use of steam power, electricity; digital technology and computing, now is the era of cyber physical systems, driverless cars, smart robotics and manufacturing processes built around 3D printing.

The World Economic Forum says more than 7 million jobs are at risk from advances in technology in the world’s largest economies over the next five years. On one estimate, 47% of US jobs are at risk from automation. According to a study conducted by Oxford University and Deltoitte, 850,000 UK public sector jobs could be automated by 2030.

Jobs like teachers, social workers and police officers face a 23% chance of automation. In the health service, the number of staff in the nursing field is expected to fall from 274,000 in 2015 to 266,000 by 2030. The group of Healthcare practice managers shall minimize from 10,000 in 2015 to 2000 by 2030. According to Niall Ferguson, Professor of Financial and Economic History at Harvard University, the only difference between the current and previous revolutions is its exponential rather than linear pace.

Technological change has always been disruptive in one way or another. We are in a midst of industrial revolution where smart machines will soon replace workers; invention of more powerful gadgets and mobile devices with unlimited power, storage and access to knowledge; accompanied by significant and mind blowing innovations in biotechnology, robotics, 3D printing, nanotechnology, genetic engineering and quantum physics. The pace at which this change is proceeding is extremely fast and will encompass all that we know.

We have been told from the very start that a doctor needs to master some basic skills including professionalism, basic ethics like doctor-patient confidentiality, being empathetic, attentive and progressive (forward thinking), maintaining a positive and generous attitude. This was good enough uptill now.

In order to benefit from changes of the revolution, we all need to change, we all need to prepare including health workers as well. Robots and gadgets may be faster, giving accurate lab results and diagnostic values but they cannot beat us in critical thinking, people management, emotional intelligence, service orientation and judgment and decision making.

The medicine industry is changing all the time. Also people always need healthcare, no matter what time or day of the year, they need medical attention. People can’t rely completely on apps and technology. Research has shown that doctors who have established a genuine empathetic connection, their patients actually experience a reduction in pain and shall likely recover faster.

Another point to ponder is the significance of the “Trust factor”. Klaus Schwab, Founder and executive of the World Economic Forum says “The biggest global issue is the continued erosion of trust”. This applies best to the patient-technology status. People might sometimes use medical apps for knowing the uses and side effects of medicines and finding the likely differential diagnosis, but ultimately they would end up with the doctors for their checkup because they are unlikely to risk their health to technology.

About the writer

Maria Khan is currently a student of third year MBBS at Army medical college and a proud member of AMSA and IFMSA-Pakistan for the past three years. She has an experience in publishing for the past five years and published her articles in DAWN. She is the member of the college research society AURF and has had the chance to present my research at the 11th annual AURF symposium and the 1st SG International conference being the youngest of all speakers. Her special interests include research in hematology, oncology and pediatrics, reading and writing articles.

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