In an interview with Dr. Robert Hoyt which AIMed published last week, we asked the Associate Clinical Professor, Internal Medicine Department of Virginia Commonwealth University, whether medical professionals are open to the idea of learning data science and artificial intelligence (AI) with the same enthusiasm that we advocate new technologies to be used in medicine and healthcare.

Dr. Hoyt said it was a good question and he was unclear. A systematic study is probably needed to find out the industry’s needs, what are we currently teaching medical and healthcare trainees, and what does the community already know. Dr. Hoyt added back in his alma mater, health informatics and data science are taught at a minimal level. The reason being there’s not enough time to cram additional lessons into the already content-heavy curriculum.

Absent of friendly training programs

Indeed, apart from asking whether medical professionals are ready and willing to learn new technologies, often, there is also an absent of friendly training programs to get learners started. For example, in the UK, video conferencing software company StarLeaf had recently sent a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to 80 National Health Service (NHS) Trusts to find out the popular communication tools used by clinicians and challenges they face while employing these tools in clinical setting.

74% of the Trusts said video conferencing was one of their primary modes of communication and 48% revealed their plans to roll out virtual consultations and appointments through video conferencing in the near future. In spite so, StarLeaf found that 56% of the Trusts do not have training programs in place for staff to learn how to use these systems properly. Besides, when staff realized the video conferencing system is too cumbersome for them to use, they will literally forgo that and use other non-formally approved but familiar tools and applications like Whatsapp, to carry on sharing information and communicating with fellow patients.

The fallible practice is not only putting NHS at odds with one of its’ Long Term Plan goals to promote remote consultations and alleviate pressure on clinicians but also putting the Trusts at risks of security breaches. In a separate survey conducted by the Royal College of Physicians, they found while 70% of the practitioners believed some of their appointments with patients could be carried out via video conferencing, fewer than 10% said they are actually doing so. The same for other forms of remote consultation involving telephone and emails.

Where should I start?

Most importantly, medical professionals are unsure of where and how to start. As mentioned by Dr. Hoyt, we need to find out how much and what medical professionals already know. Moreover, FOMO (fear of losing out) means hospital systems and medical professionals are most likely to buy into new tech solutions that appear promising, without giving a thought on their long-term implications or whether these solutions are substantially supported by randomized controlled trials.

Gradually, FOSS (fear of small startups) is catching up as the medical community is made confused by the constellations of new choices made available to them. Some of these small initiatives may pose a risk of not surviving long enough to ensure to support the deployment and upgrading of the solution. All these signified that the medical community probably needs a lot more help than expected but first and for most, it’s important for us to help them understand what they do not know.


Author Bio

Hazel Tang A science writer with data background and an interest in the current affair, culture, and arts; a no-med from an (almost) all-med family. Follow on Twitter.