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[Column] Charles Edelstein: Let’s ring the healthcare changes column

[Column] Charles Edelstein: Let’s ring the healthcare changes

Given the rapid pace of technology, medical training needs to adapt quickly or risk becoming redundant.

Here are four of the top trends that will shape the doctors of tomorrow:

The power of technology

Technology can now be harnessed to improve a doctors’ ability to make an accurate diagnosis. Healthcare systems are becoming increasingly digitalised, meaning that patients’ electronic medical records are easy to access. New technology also includes scans, robotic surgery and genomic medicine, in which DNA information is used to inform patient care. And then there’s the issue of artificial intelligence (AI) and whether we even need doctors – more on that later. But perhaps the biggest shift is the realisation that the doctors of tomorrow don’t need to store all their knowledge in their heads; and can instead rely on technology to help keep them informed and updated. 

A new way of learning

The greatest advantage of online training is that it will enable self-directed learning. Medical education can now be personalised to reflect the student’s individual interests. However, as much as students are used to online learning – especially in the post-Covid landscape – so there’s a need for a hybrid approach in which in-person classes can be incorporated. Although Millennials and Gen X-ers spend much of their time online, they still view social interaction as important and enjoy working in groups; both in class and virtually. They also want feedback on their academic progress, and emotional support from their educators. Medical institutions should respond to this need and adapt their curricula to provide more team-based, collaborative, and even game-based learning forms.

The rise of robots
AI should not be seen as the enemy of tomorrow’s doctors, but rather as their friend. It will reduce the need for doctors to interpret data, and will provide prompts and checklists to enable junior doctors to reach a diagnosis and make important treatment decisions. Augmented reality and virtual reality can also be used in the training of doctors to help them learn how to perform difficult surgical procedures. A good example of man working with machine is mammography. Currently, two radiologists read mammograms to decide if there is any cancerous growth, but recent trials have replaced one of the radiologists with AI. The human doctor is then able to compare notes with the AI report and change his report if something pertinent comes to light. This doesn’t mean that robots will be taking away medical jobs – they will simply be helping doctors to do their jobs better.

The changing role of the doctor

In light of the changes mentioned above, the doctors of tomorrow should not feel threatened. Rather, they should focus on acquiring the soft skills that machines can never replicate – such as a healtthy dose of compassion and empathy. The doctor-patient relationship remains a key component of good healthcare. Patients look to doctors to reassure them when a diagnosis is not good. With the average age of the world’s population on the increase, more elderly patients will need care – and they’ll want a doctor who treats them with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Charles Edelstein is a director at Executive Placements, a leading jobs portal in South Africa.

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