Automation in 2019-Perhaps it was 1984’s blockbuster movie, The Terminator, that ignited man’s fear of robots taking over the world. Or perhaps that fear is rooted in an instinctive paranoia that faces a future of unfamiliar territory with caution. Whatever the reason, technophobia is alive and well, and it affects many of the ways in which we feel about and integrate technology into our daily lives.
Not all of these fears are based in unfounded skepticism, however. In fact, it is not dramatic upheaval that most fear, but rather that their jobs will be lost to automated robots that may very well be quicker and more efficient at performing them.
But has the introduction of automated technology really brought about a future wherein humans are ineffective in the workforce? So far, most signs point to no. According to Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg, a Chief Economist at the World Bank, the rise of automation has had a negligible impact on jobs at a global scale. In this article, we take a look about how automation has changed the medical field, at both an industry and worker level.
Identifying a Need for Automation
When most people think about automation, it is often in the context of replacing an otherwise human workforce. It is less often that automation is acknowledged as a solution for a staffing shortage, although an increasing number of automated technologies are doing just that.
According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical laboratory technologist and technician employment is expected to grow by 13 percent between 2010 and 2020. However, the rate at which qualified laboratory professionals are retiring is on the rise. Not only that, but the number of laboratory training programs offered to novice workers has decreased by nearly 25 percent since 1990. If these trends persist, it is unlikely that the influx of newer professionals will be sufficient to satisfy the labor demand.
This problem is exacerbated by recent policy initiatives—namely, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Protecting Access to Medicare Act (PAMA)—that have pushed for healthcare facility consolidations. These initiatives have forced laboratories to reduce costs, maximize revenue, and increase testing volume to compensate for the loss of capital. In light of this, lab managers are looking for new solutions to sustain laboratory operations with less financial and staffing support.