Human interaction remains key in healthcare

While there is no doubt that artificial intelligence will bring about cost and manpower savings, which often translate into higher productivity, human interaction is still a key factor in the business of healthcare (AI system promises faster tests for 3 eye diseases; Dec 18).

As an optometrist, my training has equipped me with the knowledge and skills in detecting the eye diseases mentioned in the article - diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

While we marvel at the evolution of medical technology that has enabled the screening of common eye diseases to become a matter of comparing heat maps, there is a sense of anxiety among primary care providers that traditional eye examinations and consultations will soon come under threat.

The role of the optometrist involves attending to the visual needs of a person.

He has the responsibility of providing advice and interpretation of retinal images to the patient, making any necessary recommendations such as referrals to ophthalmologists and offering reassurance if the eyes reveal non-sight-threatening conditions.

While machines may read the eyes as organs, we see the eyes as that of a human being's, understanding his personal and family histories, lifestyles and habits, checking his eyesight and screening for eye diseases.

Digital disruption is affecting work of almost every nature.

Regulators around the world should ensure that artificial intelligence will be adopted for the betterment of mankind and not result in the distancing or the replacing of the human spirit.

Koh Lian Buck

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2017, with the headline 'Human interaction remains key in healthcare'. Print Edition | Subscribe