Total Business Magazine

The Role of AI and Robotics in Transforming Business and Healthcare

Mark Livingstone, CEO of Pharmacy2U, discusses how business and healthcare can be transformed with the use of technology and AI.


Businesses must utilise technology without disenfranchising communities. It would have been counterproductive if the Industrial Revolution had ended employment rather than changed it. Today, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics emphasize this challenge.

AI enables computers to have unprecedented decision-making ability. When combined with robotics, AI could become ubiquitous alongside the Internet of things (IoT), where online connectivity links physical devices and everyday objects.

These technologies will change economies. The global market for AI in big data and the internet of things (IoT) is predicted to exceed $24 billion by 2024, and according to PwC, 59% of executives say big data at their company could be improved through AI. According to PwC’s study, GDP could be 10% higher in 2030 as a result of AI, equivalent to an additional £232 billion. Globally, AI has the potential to add $13 trillion by 2030 to global economic outputs according to a September 2018 report by the McKinsey Global Institute.

“If delivered, this impact would compare well with that of other general-purpose technologies through history,” notes McKinsey. “Consider, for instance, that the introduction of steam engines during the 1800s boosted labour productivity by an estimated 0.3% a year, the impact from robots during the 1990s around 0.4%, and the spread of IT during the 2000s 0.6%.”

A recent Deloitte survey reported 57% of businesses to be increasing AI spending. AI saves time and money through smarter data analysis to inform investment decisions, determine marketing strategies and automate workflows. Increasingly, AI is used for businesses planning, as shown by Ocado and Amazon who use the technology to optimise storage and delivery. AI is also used to predict customers’ buying behaviour, demonstrated by FedEx and Sprint who use predictive analytics to identify customers who may defect to a competitor. AI also informs business tasks requiring emotional intelligence. For example, AI is used in recruitment, as seen with the talent acquisition tool, Ideal, which intelligently screens applicants to create a shortlist for managers. Another example is Sky TV, which has implemented machine learning to recommend content to viewers according to what mood they are in at the time.

Robotics is making an impact too. The latest World Robotics Report shows that a record number of robots were shipped globally in 2018, with the automotive and electronics industries being the key drivers. Robot density in the US manufacturing industry is now more than double that of China, with robotic uses ranging from agriculture to healthcare gradually coming to the fore. The robotic healthcare market is predicted to reach $11.44 billion by 2025, with robots being used for surgery, diagnostics and rehabilitation. Like AI, robotics is assuming more human roles in business, as seen with Pepper, a humanoid customer service robot designed by SoftBank Robotics to recognise faces and read emotions that is used by over 2,000 organisations worldwide.

But is technology always worth the cost? According to the Office of National Statistics, 1.5 million people in England are in danger of losing their jobs to automation, with low skilled jobs in the service industries at the most risk. The PwC report notes that AI will lead to a change in the demand for skills, introducing inequalities between workers who are skilled enough to utilise AI and those who are not. The report warns: “The benefits of AI are likely to be distributed unequally, and if the development and deployment of these technologies are not handled effectively, inequality could deepen, fuelling conflict within societies.”

Arguably the new world and the old combine best in the healthcare sector. AI driven data analytics make health services more effective by linking data between different health organisations.  In a speech given last year,  Prime Minister Theresa May challenged health charities, the NHS and the AI sector to pool data to transform the diagnosis of chronic diseases, with the aim of using AI to prevent over 20,000 cancer-related deaths each year by 2033.

In pharmacy, the electronic prescription service (EPS), assisted in its development by Pharmacy2U allows GP systems to communicate with AI informed robots dispensing repeat prescription medicine 33 times greater than a mean average pharmacy. Pharmacy2U will soon have capacity to dispense up to 7.5 million items per month with the opening of a new facility in Leicester, servicing the increasing demand for NHS repeat descriptions. Online pharmacy has transformed a Victorian business model in which patients had to queue up for their medication rather than have them delivered to an address of their choice. In doing so, pharma-tech supports medicine compliance and gives high-street pharmacists more time to supply front-line advisory services to patients.

In businesses or healthcare, AI adopters will gain an advantage by automating routine processes and by making smarter decisions, but Industry 4.0 must happen in step with education to equip people for tomorrow’s employment. AI implementers must introduce the technology that works with existing systems and enhances rather than disrupts business models. Incremental rather than sudden progress will future-proof technology change for us all.

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