Updated: Apr 14, 2020
What is Automation
Automation is currently a polarizing topic in American politics. For those unfamiliar with the term Automation, it refers to machines doing a particular task in place of a human worker. The benefit it this is that it, can eliminate human error, companies do not have to pay a salary or healthcare packages, and a machine will never call out of work or go on strike (not yet anyway). However, the noticeable downside automation is that it can eliminate thousands of jobs, taking away people's sources of income for themselves and their families.
Automation is not a future problem. In fact, we can already see the effects automation has had on the American workforce. Factories at one point were the main employers for the American population. A factory job was relatively easy to come by. However, today a large percentage of factory workers have been replaced with machines. This has displaced millions of people. Detroit Michigan is a prime example of what can happen to a city after automation. The city of Detroit faced a lot of issues in the 1950s and 60s however, automation played a large role in the decline of the city overall.
What effect could Automation have on Healthcare Job?
1. Complete replacement of certain positions
Let's face it there are certain jobs that can be completely replaced by a computer. Some administrative positions can be replaced by computers or robots entirely. Replacement of pharmacists in hospitals by machines that dispense medication can already be seen. Jobs that are vulnerable to automation are those that consist of constant repetitive tasks, such a coding, paperwork, data entry, and packaging. A majority of these positions can be found in administrative departments.
2. Automation Can Change Roles in Healthcare
One way automation could affect healthcare jobs is by completely changing how a procedure is done. For example, a surgeon may not be completely replaced by a machine however, the surgeon may be trained to operate a machine performing a surgical procedure. Also, machines may change how doctors interact with there patients. For example, with many administrative tasks taken over by automation, doctors can move into more of a role as a consultant. With the rise in popularity of positions like Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant, we could see these two healthcare positions provide direct patient care and doctors providing consultations to NPs and PAs.
Automation could change how nurses practice under their licenses as well. Nurses more than likely will still provide care to patients however, we could very well see an increase in demand for analytic skills. These skills would be required to read the data automated machines would gather from the patient.
3. Healthcare Jobs Safe From Automation
Odds are in the next coming decades we will not see robots doing venipunctures in the doctor's offices so the position of a Phlebotomy Technician should be safe. Also, the role of EKG technicians and Patient Care Technicians should also be in the clear of Automation as well. Patient Care Technicians perform blood draws, EKG's and direct patient care procedures that simply can be replaced by machines.
In conclusion, the vast majority of healthcare jobs can not be replaced by robots or machines. The healthcare field requires compassionate and empathic people to work with patients that going through treatment as well as there families. One common theory of automation in healthcare is that the machines will not replace all positions but rather assist providers and technicians in the level of care they provide. We are very far from seeing complex AI in healthcare.