Rahul Gandhi said something in an interview about connecting MRI machines together. The clip is now widely available, shared around as the final proof of idiocy. Ah, Pappu, says the knowledgeable in a sad sort of way, shaking their heads. Foolish, foolish boy.
Much of this is political, of course. If Modiji had said something about connecting all our sphygmomanometers- to the ignorant among you those are BP apparatus (apparatuses is more correct than apparati, but apparatus is plural enough)- these same people would have hailed it as 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 that we thought Chess was a game which would never be mastered by the computer. Then Deep Blue arrived, wiped the mat with poor Kasparov, the strongest human to play the game, and we were like, 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 one underestimates technology at one’s own risk.
Much of it, apart from politics, is fear. We had the communist party here 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 this oath against AI. She threw away her calculator, its humblest member, and sat counting up long rows of numbers in her head all day long until she retired. But I find it strange that even doctors can find this MRI thing a matter of pure derison. 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 too busy treating patients. Data is precious.
Expert advise. Need a radiology second opinion, or even a radiologist, a rare animal outside of big cities?
Maintenance- The machine needs helium to run for instance, and it can ask for a refill when it is running low.
Remote monitoring. Support by technicians from afar.
Efficient utilization of machines. Today there are centres with MRI machines running idle while others are overbooked. With the connected MRI 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 should look up connected scan machines in the Internet of Things (IOT) in the Hospital, among such things such 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, as many clinicians do, raging raging against the light, against keyhole surgeries, against robotics, against specialisation, against all things new.