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Canadian Senate committee releases report on future challenges of integrating robotics, AI and 3D printing into healthcare system

Canadian healthcare system must brace for a technological revolution, says The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.


November 1, 2017
by Canadian Packaging staff

Imagine being examined for a possible health condition by a medically ‘trained’ robot and examined immediately afterwards by a physician. The physician disagrees with the robot’s diagnosis. Who or what do you believe?

It’s just one fundamental doctor-patient dilemma envisaged in a new report from the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology pointing to the revolutionary changes that are coming to Canada’s healthcare systems with the potential to bring great benefit to patients, physicians and healthcare workers.

The committee’s report released on November 1, 2017, Challenge Ahead: Integrating Robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and 3D Printing Technologies into Canada’s Healthcare Systems, cautions that everyone in the business of delivering health services to Canadians must prepare for what will be inevitable and, ultimately, radical change.

Robotics, artificial intelligence and 3D printing have the potential to reduce healthcare costs and make diagnoses quicker, more accurately, and anticipate some illness so they can be treated more proactively.

The committee heard evidence that artificial intelligence outperforms healthcare specialists in the diagnoses and classification of skin and breast cancers and other conditions. Similarly, robotic surgeries were described as safer, less invasive and more accurate than traditional surgery.

In its main recommendation, the report urges the federal government to capitalize on Canada’s leading-edge artificial intelligence research and bring together all stakeholders on a regular basis, as part of expert working groups, to monitor the progress of integration and the ongoing issues raised in its wake.

An initial conference would create those expert working groups and a secretariat to co-ordinate the ongoing work and report progress to the federal government.

This federal backing is crucial for an efficient and successful outcome when Canada’s healthcare systems meet the full-on robotic reality, says the report.

The committee predicts several areas will need specific focus:

  • Ethical and privacy considerations;
  • Healthcare delivery renewal, including home care;
  • Rural and remote healthcare delivery;
  • Workforce adjustments, including job losses, job creation, education and training;
  • Regulatory oversight

“Above all we will have to educate both healthcare workers and their patients to build trust in these new and developing technologies. For example, if artificial intelligence disagrees with the doctor’s diagnosis or method of treatment, who does the patient believe and will the doctor be prepared to accept that perhaps the robot has got it right?” offers Senator Art Eggleton, P.C., Deputy Chair of the committee.

Artificial intelligence industry representatives who appeared before the committee commended federal initiatives that support the development of new healthcare technologies but expressed frustration that getting the final products to market is fraught with obstacles — provincial procurement processes, as an example. These types of challenges can be overcome with mutual help and understanding, which is just one reason why regular meetings of stakeholders will be important.

Read the full report HERE.






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