Can technology beat a human doctor?
We have all watched sci-fi movies that depict an ultra technologic future with artifficial intelligence, robots and astonishing informatics. Some people say that sci-fi is the first attempt of Humanity to look into the future. Years and years ago, Jules Verne imagined fantastic machines that could fly through the sky or navigate the depth of the ocean, and by the time those were considered to be impossible fruits of fantasy. Now, they are part of our everyday life, and nobody stops to behold then in awe anymore.
Does this mean that, in the future, we could actually have technological solutions and artifficial intelligence that solve all of our problems? Will all human workers be replaced by machines and electronic devices? What is for sure is that nothing is for sure when it comes to the future, but Humanity has always surprised with its advancements and we see no reason why this should be any different from now on.
Health is considered both a basic human need and a basic human right. Of course, as every one of them, it is not on the reach of everybody in the planet. Scientists and filanthropes are trying to develop solutions that will help give millions access to healthcare and proper diagnosis, which could even save their lives. Many see those solutions in the increasing power of technology. So, does that mean that new informatic tools will be developed to diagnose and prescribe treatment to human illnesses? Does that even mean that human doctors will be obsolete one day?
An app can tell you if you have skin cancer
As crazy as that sounds, a phone app has been approved in the European Union as a valid tool for skin cancer diagnosis. Skin cancer, also known as melanoma, is a deadly condition that is currently increasing due to the damage of the ozone in our atmosphere. According to Cancer.org, Melanoma will account for 73,000 cases of skin cancer this year. So if you have a mole that could become skin cancer unless properly treated, it seems like a great idea to stay prevented and get the opinion of a dermatologist before it turns into something deadly. Right?
So how does this app work, anyway? It's called SkinVision, and is powered by a software that analyzes pictures of moles that you take with your smartphone camera. This app will decide whether or not your mole is likely to be skin cancer. If you get a positive result, you are encouraged to visit a dermatologist in order to ger proper treatment.
Other apps have been developed to help people detect and get treatment for possible conditions. In example, there is an app called Peek that will run a sight testing on your eyes with the help of a special lens. Other apps help you keep track of symptoms and even run behavioral analysis to alert you of possible mind health conditions.
How technology supports healthcare
The work of doctors and nurses has been improving thanks to the development of science. All medical tools, all medication, all devices used in diagnosis and treatment, even the hospital buildings themselves are the fruit of technological advancement. It seems natural to think that the latest innovations in electronics will also be used to provide better healthcare. When it comes to skin conditions, it looks valid to take advantage of the connection between health and technology to improve health care: dermatology online appears as a very useful tool. So why do some people still feel uncomfortable with this?
For your peace of mind, researchers found that dermatologists can diagnose with a picture selfie almost as accurately as in a face-to-face consultation. A study compared the diagnosis of dermatologists both personally and via a phone camera, and there vas over 90% agreement between the both groups of specialists. The question now rises: why wait to go to the doctor when you can quickly get a doctor online? It is true that bringing the eye of a dermatologist through your smartphone saves a lot of time, and time isn't always that abundant in our modern lives. Does that mean that we can skip the GP and use our phones and online clinics to get diagnosis and treatment?
We want to make it clear that this technology has its limitations. It hasn't been approved as a replacement for doctors, but as a complement of human healthcare. Apps and online clinics that offer diagnose via a photograph have their flaws: some patients don't pick the right moles to evaulate, the quality of the photo and even the lighting can affect the results, and of course, no machine has the human intuition, gestaltic view and ethic considerations that a real person has. However, smartphone diagnosis can be helpful as it can help set an alarm on a possible case of skin cancer or other dangerous conditions.