Podcast: Are we ditching the doctor too quickly?


Our latest Dividing Lines podcast in partnership with The Near Futurist asks if we still need real-world doctors, with all the health tech now at our fingertips. Guy Clapperton pitches the CEO of remote diagnostics company Thriva against a doctor from Lloyds Pharmacy. Take a listen here.

Thanks to the pandemic (if “thanks” is the word we’re really looking for) and the technology that has emerged at the same time, we are probably more health-aware than we’ve been before. We are also better informed if we choose to be. Previous generations wanting to find out about their blood pressure would have gone to the doctor, fretted about it and been diagnosed with hypertension – we can now go to any pharmacy, spend £40 or so on a home BP kit and take our own.

Likewise we can wear a watch that will tell us how active we’ve been and what our pulse rates are, resting and when we’re active. These devices will even tell us when we’re resting too much. Other widgets are available to monitor blood oxygen levels.

So do we really need the doctor any more? The answer is almost certainly “yes” according to the guests on the new edition of “Dividing Lines” from Diffusion PR and the Near Futurist podcast. Dr. Gigi Taguri heads up LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor and is herself a former GP; Hamish Grierson is in charge of remote diagnostic company Thriva, which works alongside the National Health Service and other organisations, and each has their own perspective on what artificial intelligence and machine learning can add to the health.

As with a lot of our Dividing Lines series, the participants are separated by nuance rather than taking an extreme position. Dr. Taguri was motivated initially by her work in sexual health and having noticed that everything else people found embarrassing – money, for example – was going online while women had to turn up four times a year in person to discuss contraception. She is firmly of the view that poor use of technology can result in a glut of information that isn’t useful to the inexpert patience. Grierson is keen to mark out areas in which artificial intelligence and machine learning can help but also areas in which it can’t; he also resists any notion that this is privatisation of the UK’s National Health Service “by the back door”. Everyone in the debate, including chair Guy Clapperton, has been bitten by dud information from their smartwatch!

The Near Futurist “Dividing Lines” debate is available to stream or download now.