We have known for years now that many jobs currently done by people could be done by robots. Experts predict that the future will hold few jobs for human workers, with 38 percent of the United States workforce expected to be automated by 2030. Employment is already a major concern in the minds of many people, and the prospect of a robotic workforce is enough to make anyone wonder: will my job still exist in the future?
The good news for those in the healthcare industry is that the answer to that question is, by and large, a resounding yes. A study by NPR found that many healthcare jobs have a very low chance of being replaced by machines. For example, they estimated that the work of physicians has a 0.4 percent chance of being automated. Compare that to the job of restaurant cook, which has a 96.3 percent chance of being automated.
What is it about healthcare careers that makes them so resistant to automation? Let’s explore that together.
Healthcare Jobs Are Personal
Bedside manner is a famous part of the job for many physicians and nurses. For some, such as the titular character from the tv show “House”, it can be an infamous part of the job. There’s no denying that many healthcare professions require a personal connection between doctor and patient that is rare among other careers in today’s fast-paced world. The primary goal of any doctor or nurse is to see to their patients’ well-being as best they can, and this means more than just attacking the physical ailments.
The fact of the matter is that people feel more comfortable working closely with another person on their health matters than they do interacting with a machine, and this is a huge help when it comes to keeping healthcare jobs in human hands.
Healthcare Professionals Must Face Ethical Dilemmas
Hard decisions are not fun, but for many healthcare professionals, especially those in the thick of it in hospitals and other medical centers, having to tackle difficult moral conundrums is one of the realities of the work. It is well-documented that healthcare professionals have to face ethical dilemmas in their work, and it is unlikely that computers will ever be able to make reliable moral judgments in the same way that a human can. Given that administering medical care will require learning private information about a patient and, possibly, making challenging value judgments about their care far into the foreseeable future, human doctors aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Medicine Can Be More Art Than Science
Virtually every healthcare professional is at least familiar in passing with the WebMD syndrome: wherein concerned patients will search the web for their symptoms and report to their doctors that they have, miraculously, contracted some rare genetic disease.
The human body is complex enough that Googling your symptoms is almost always a bad idea. A computer will only ever be able to check a patient’s symptoms against a database to come up with a likely diagnosis, which is exactly what patients are already doing with online illness databases like WebMD. Producing a proper diagnosis is never as simple as plugging in symptoms and will always require a trained physician’s judgment.
It’s Not All Sunshine and Daisies
Many healthcare jobs are future-proof for the reasons mentioned above, but this isn’t true for everyone. Healthcare careers that may start to disappear in the future include positions that involve a lot of data-handling and organization. While technology isn’t going to replace doctors and nurses anytime soon, technology will work alongside them. Tools such as health ID cards and cloud-based patient databases are cutting out the need for additional employees to handle and organize patient information.
However, this shift from paper to digital storage of patient information will create new jobs for cybersecurity in hospitals, as administrators work to keep sensitive personal info out of the hands of those who would exploit it.
While many jobs that are seen as staples of the world’s workforce are slowly disappearing, healthcare careers will continue to go strong for many years. This is thanks to unique challenges that require a doctor’s experience and judgement, as well as the intensely personal nature of a doctor-patient relationship. While other professions are replaced by machines, we can expect to see human beings in the medical field for many years to come.