Rahul Gandhi said something in an interview about connecting MRI machines together. The clip is now widely available, shared around as final proof of idiocy. Ah, Pappu, says the knowledgeable in a sad sort of way, shaking their heads. Foolish, foolish boy.
This reaction is political. If Modiji had asked for connecting sphygmomanometers together- to the ignorant among you sphygmomanometers are BP apparatus (apparatuses is more correct than apparati, but apparatus is plural enough)- these same people would have called it a masterstroke, the landmark health policy decision in independent India. The response is political, and we have no use for politics as practiced by little people. Ignore them.
In fact it is best to ignore people who run down technology. “Oh, that’s never going to happen,” is a red flag to ignore the speaker. It wasn’t long ago when Chess was a game which was beyond the computer. Then Deep Blue came, wiped the mat with poor Kasparov, the strongest human to play the game. We said, ah, Chess, Chess is easy, but Go. Never. AI has since beaten human beings at everything we have invented, including Go and Poker. I still believe it will never win at Cricket, but I won’t be surprised I turn out to be wrong.
Much of it, apart from politics, is fear. We had the communist party going around in fear of computers, making public oaths never to use them. My father told me of a colleague in his office who took the oath. She threw away her calculator, AI’s humblest member, and counted up long rows of numbers in her head all day until she retired. But I find it strange that even doctors find this MRI thing a matter of derision. There may be something in it if you think about it.
Connect a few billion neurons and you have more than a few neurons- you have the human brain. Connect a few billion computers and you have more than computers. You have the Internet. What benefits would we gain if we have MRI machines connected to the web? Off hand, and after five minutes of googling, I can think of five, some of which exist now, even as we speak.
Data. Data collection is what we do least in India because we are all busy treating patients. Data is precious.
Expert advise. Need a second opinion from a radiologist, a rare animal outside of big cities?
Maintenance- The machine needs helium to run apparently, and it can ask for a refill when running low.
Remote monitoring. Technical support from afar.
Efficient utilization of machines. Today there are centres with MRI machines running idle while others are overbooked. With connected machines you can reserve slots like you do for train berths.
There may be others, but I’m not tech savvy enough to think of them. Interested people can look up connected scan machines in the Internet of Things (IOT) in the Hospital, among such wonders as connected drug inhalers, and even (why not) connected sphygmomanometers. We underestimate or rubbish innovation at our peril, at the risk of fading away into the sunset like dinosaurs, like many clinicians do, raging raging against the light, against keyhole surgeries, against robotics, against specialisation, against all things new.