Dr Chris Mimnagh: A cautionary tale of healthcare in the future

I'm not going to comment on current affairs this week, instead can I tell a story of the far off future? It's the year 2025.

Healthcare is now delivered by semi autonomous artificial intelligence machines (SAAIMs) which have replaced fallible humans.

Unfortunately the World Health System has decided it can't make enough SAAIMs for every hospital. The devices are programmed to do whatever's required in the wards assigned, they can cope with two wards, but often get given four.

Recently one of the SAAIMs treated a human but the human had been moved to another area without the SAAIM being updated with this information. As a result the SAAIM made wrong decisions and the human died.

The humans relatives were devastated. Of course there was no question of taking out their grief or frustration on the SAAIM, it was programmed adequately, operating well, its database turned out to have been inadequately updated, but that wasn't the fault of the SAAIM.

Every intelligent human could see that it was the fault of the World Health System, not funding enough SAAIMs to provide for health needs.

Unfortunately the Testing Intelligences Tautology Service that ensures public confidence in SAAIMs could not bear to tell the World Health Service that it was killing people by allowing SAAIMs to work beyond their safe specifications.

So the SAAIM was taken out, reprogrammed and now works in fast food delivery.

Clearly the future is very stupid, we would never scrap a valuable machine with such skills purely because it was assigned to an over stretched system would we?

  • Dr Chris Mimnagh is a GP in Liverpool and head of clinical innovation liaison and deployment at The Innovation Agency, the academic health science network for the north-west coast.

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