Based on the report Humans and machines: The role of people in technology driven organisations, we’re taking a look at the role of human and technological interaction in the workforces of the future. Our previous blog looked at how finance and manufacturing are using automation to focus manpower on design and creativity. But how would this work in human facing industries? Both healthcare and education rely upon human skills and interpersonal relationships, so how can robotics be used as part of the changing workforces in these industries?
In many areas of healthcare, the margin for error is tiny. In the field of surgery, robots are being used to reduce incision size and guide procedures deeper into the body than ever before. This process avoids scarring, and augments the abilities of surgeons. Outside of the operating table, efficiencies gained by technologies are also welcomed in healthcare. IT systems and hospital back offices are reliant on technology, although this can present problems. As in other sectors, it is the intersection of human processes and technology that are difficult to navigate. In the UK, a £12.7b effort to make patient records electronic was scrapped in 2011, largely because doctors found adopting new processes too challenging.
Close to 70% of healthcare executives polled by the survey felt that increasing use of technology freed staff up to be more creative. Outside of the administrative processes, programmes are also being used to help diagnose illness. There is an argument for the use of centralised supercomputers, able to keep up with the latest publications on health and disease. With an average margin for error of 10-11% in doctors diagnosing conditions, machines such as these could avert misdiagnoses.
Yet across the industry, there is still a universal acceptance of the need for doctor-patient rapport, and the roles of carers and nurses. As the healthcare industry faces increasing pressure, perhaps technology can lessen the burden, and enable practitioners to focus instead on the traditional human quality of doctor-patient relationships.
It is no surprise that education has grown with the digital revolution. Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCS, have changed the face of tertiary education. Leading the way in 2002, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MOT) started to make its course materials freely available on the web. The UK’s Open University is also using an OpenLearn platform and social media to facilitate its courses.
The internet has disrupted learning in a far-reaching way. In many parts of the world, education systems come under pressure from citizens and the government to better meet the demands of the workplace. Online learning is more agile and flexible, as well as being more cost effective than a school-based administration. Technology-led learning has not lost out on creativity, as collaboration or interactive activities are not hampered by technologies. Moving learning online also allows educators to be more creative with their time.
A popular use of technology is that of ‘blended learning.’ Much as we’ve seen in finance, manufacturing and healthcare, it is with a combination of human and digital functions, that processes can be streamlined most effectively. A combination of seminar learning, podcasts, webinars and online assessments make 19th century education a thing of the past.
Could teachers be removed altogether? In South Korea the use of robots has been piloted, to help teach English to schoolchildren. The use of gaming for education also allows students to become more active in their learning. Cloud-servers too can reduce the burden of administration on schools.
As in healthcare, the revolution ahead is one of a blend between human interaction and automation where possible. Though the impact of teachers and doctors on the lives of the students remains undiminished, coming technologies will enable educators and healthcare professionals to be more strategic in their practise, making their jobs more creative and worthwhile.