Will doctors, in the future, make diagnoses like mechanics do?

Two recent episodes made me ask the question.

The latest Apple announcements indicate how, through artificial intelligence, the sensors already present in wearable devices can be used to monitor an increasing number of signs and symptoms. Research into the development of new sensors is progressing at full speed and, within a few years, it will be possible to detect many other vital parameters.

A few days ago, while I was in the car on the highway, the on-board computer reported me the irregular operation of the engine, which I had not noticed, and limited the power, inviting me to go to a workshop to have the checks carried out. I was worried, also because my beloved convertible is a few years old and has several kilometers. Two days later I took it to my trusted workshop where a mechanic, after connecting the electronic control unit to the diagnostic system, told me that there was a problem with the lowering of the petrol supply pressure that may have been caused by an injector.

Thanks to the stored data he has performed a diagnosis and identified the probable cause of the problem. The use of sensors and electronic diagnosis is certainly not new in the automotive field and has profoundly transformed the way workshops work.

In the aeronautical field, where aircraft are very complex systems, and any downtime for unscheduled maintenance causes logistic problems (sending spare parts and mechanics to the airport where the aircraft is stationary) and an economic loss, onboard sensors now send data, via satellite telemetry, to the airline’s maintenance centre and to the airframe and engine manufacturer. Predictive analysis systems are able to detect, in most cases, the deterioration of components and allow their replacement before they fail.

When will it be possible to do the same with the human body?

Wearable devices include sensors with which you can monitor the main vital parameters, detect the way we move, measure the risks we are exposed to (stress, noise, etc.). They are therefore both the “control unit” and the “sensors” (non-invasive) that we can use.

However, we need equipped “workshops” and trained “mechanics” to turn to when our personal device suggests to us to do so or, perhaps, to be warned when it is the case to “go to the workshop”.

Some people call all this “predictive medicine” and “connected care”; personally, I think it is easier to explain these concepts by taking the example of the car, a vehicle that is much more familiar to people.

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