Dr. Hilary Thomas, in her capacity as chief medical adviser of KPMG, has decades of experience in the healthcare industry. She helps healthcare organisations align their organisational strategy and business models by redesigning their care models and pathways to better cope with the changes in the industry. At the Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit 2015, she spoke about the integration of technology in modern medicine. She posited that, in the future, technology will be even more integral to healthcare and described at length what that future would look like.

Dr. Thomas predicts that the doctors of the future would spend more and more time engaging with technology. For starters, technology - such as smart hardware, software and testing - is expected replace 80% of the doctor-time spent on medicine. This would potentially cause a major shift in how healthcare practitioners work.

The evolution of a cooperative model - leveraging both human and technological systems - will outsource core functions necessary for complex diagnoses, treatment and monitoring to technological systems. This will amplify the remaining work of physicians, making them even more effective as they will get more time to focus on important tasks. This complementary relationship could lead to the evolution of healthcare from an entirely human-based system to an increasingly more automated system. Currently, robot-assisted surgeries have already helped overcome certain limitations of pre-existing surgical procedures, especially minimally-invasive surgeries. In the future, ‘bionic assist’ systems will enhance physicians’ capabilities. Bionic systems make use of biomechatronic body parts, devices and technologies which can transcend biological abilities. For example, computer-aided ‘bionic vision’ is already being used in surgery.

On a larger scale, healthcare around the world is likely to become more scientific and this will reflect in better quality of care. This revolution will be made possible by the proliferation of inexpensive data gathering techniques (through patient-friendly friendly monitoring devices, wearable trackers etc.), the continual monitoring made possible as a result, and the culture of ubiquitous information. This could lead to a paradigm shift - to a healthcare model that is geared towards more personalised treatments. For example, readily available data will allow diseases to be measured by their metabolic pathways, enabling their timely detection, response to drugs, and personalised treatment plan for the patient. Indeed, in the future, the most significant contributions to medical innovation will come from Digital Health Technologies (DHTs) - encompassing biophysics, mobile medical apps, health information technology, electronic medical records, wearable technology and more.

Dr. Hilary Thomas stressed that the personal interactions that are an integral part of doctor-patient relationships today will continue to have their place even in a hi-tech future. She predicts that patient care, too, will evolve, for example with an emergence of more patient-facing roles in healthcare. Overall, the healthcare experience of the future will be significantly different as technology continues to contribute to the clinical and non-clinical aspects of healthcare.

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