Everyday, the use of technology grows, and the lines between what computers do versus humans grow closer. In some cases, the lines have become blurry. From robot vacuums and other items to automate household cleaning to driverless cars on the roads and robot-assisted surgeries in the operating room, the rise of artificial intelligence, or AI, has a vested interest to help understand and solve complex problems on many scales.
In the medical world, one of the most well-known AI machines working on analyzing large sums of data to locate patterns and connections, so it can function as a clinical decision support system, is IBM’s Watson. However, for those of us that have seen Watson competing on Jeopardy, Watson does not always get it right (quite humorous, I might add!), and this also holds true for other AI software.
For those patterns and decisions that are not yet able to be understood and/or completed by computers, that is where “turkers” comes in. “Turking” is the process of completing tasks by humans that computers cannot do. These tasks are also known as “human intelligence” tasks. So, what types of tasks would that include? Examples of this include re-typing handwritten documents, or checking for inappropriate comments, photos, or videos.
The world of medicine is a hodgepodge of computers, people, forms, and data in which groups of people work everyday to document and understand workflow, to help resolve breakdown in communications across multiple departments, and refine processes or lists to help patient care be efficient and compassionate. The “turkers” in the medical field are our “superusers” who help bridge the communication gap between technological and clinical terminology and processes.
Our superusers let us know, for example, if they receive unexpected alerts, too many alerts, or no alert at all. They let us know whether a process is incomplete or not working as expected, and this is important. Technology originally started out as a way to help aid the healthcare process in becoming more efficient and streamlined. It can help provide transparency and expose broken processes. It can allow patients to be able to participate in their own care as never before. However, with more complexity being added, the use of technology, or the overwhelming information, can sometimes slow down, confuse, or hinder us from completing our work.
We can see that positively in several cases with the use of technology where alerts for results have helped clinicians know at a moment’s notice if a patient had an abnormal lab result or keep checks and balances for multiple prescribed medications. However, as more and more processes become streamlined, the use of the electronic records shows a decrease in the possibility of teaching interactions as more clinicians work in silos on computers, compared to a paper-based environment where clinicians review notes and results together and often engage in discussions and questions, which may be helpful when clinicians are learning from more experienced peers.
Technology has been pushed forward with varying results, both negative and positive, on all sides and by all sides. Technology is meant to be a tool to facilitate workflows and streamline patient care, but as we race forward on this technology track by staying in compliance with Meaningful Use and other regulations, we should step back, observe, and review that we have not lost sight of our end goal of integrated health care and better health via the human touch.
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