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Digital Transformation in Healthcare VI

Chatbots are becoming widespread and are going to play a major role in healthcare, providing personalised doctor on demand services. Image credit: ISDDesign

5. Healthcare Digitlaisation – Chatbots

The Electronic Health Record, EHR, keeping track of the patient data is now a reality in several Countries. The European Community has adopted a Recommendation for the exchange of EHR across Europe. Notice, however, that this recommendation is to make possible for a citizen of a European Country to make the EHR available to any doctor, hospital in the EU in case of need. It is not for making the data available for research nor for intelligence.

In the US the situation is even more complex with some 700 different “standards” of EHR, since there is no unified accepted standards and EHR are tied to the specific vendor providing the software. In many cases there is not even an EHR but just an EMR – Electronic Medical Record- used by doctors in their practice and keeping track of a specific aspects (like the cardiologist has the EMR of a patient, a lung specialist, an ophthalmologist, a gynaecologist … each of them may have an EMR of a patient and no-one of them has access to the EMR created by the other doctors).

A research project in Europe was funded by the EU to come up with a viable way of using health data for research, EHR4C -Electronic Health Record for Clinical Research-, to set the bases for leveraging on all health data. The way to go is still complex, given the privacy concerns. At the same time we are seeing bottom up approaches, like the one of recently announced by Apple that may put a pressure on governments to create and implement a top down solution for sharing data.

There is no doubt in the scientific community that a full digital transformation making available health data of hundred of millions of people would increase tremendously scientific knowledge and result in amazing advances in cure and wellbeing of citizens.

The availability of people’s health data can be exploited by autonomous “bot” to:

  • Discover patterns, like emergence of epidemics, noxious factors in an environment, long term effect of various ambient conditions…
  • Provide personalised consultancy services, “doctor on demand”, through chatbots. Hospitals and insurance companies have started developing chatbots as interface for patient to access medical expertise, like better understanding of symptoms (like YourMD chatbot, already installed in a few million smartphones) or helping in formulating a diagnoses (like Sensely chatbot designed as a service provided by Insurance and pharma companies), helping in remembering to take a pill (like the Florence chatbot) and more…
  • Assist doctors in diagnoses and setting up a cure, like the services provided by Unanimous AI where bots are roaming the health knowledge space in the web providing uptodate info to medical doctors.

It is interesting to notice that chatbots can boost healthcare in areas where healthcare service is limited by geography (remote areas) and resources (watch the clip). Clearly this can extend worldwide, but it should also be noted the possible negative aspects, as pointed out in one of the latest thrillers of Robin Cook, Cell. What is also instructive in reading that book is the implication of chatbots on the medical profession and how these extend to medical insurance and pharma.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.