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Medical Robots

By: | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments: 0 | February 11th, 2016

Technology is going to transform healthcare!

On this week’s blog, we are expressing the news and our perspective, and it has generally been focused on the cross-roads and technology. Recently, we have been adding another dimension; generational economics and healthcare. I love to read about our industry, and with more than 10 patents issued, and another 20 pending, technology and innovation drive me. A friend of mine once called me a futurist, and to this day I wonder if that was a good thing, or a bad thing?

We have been focusing on the use of computers, especially cloud based computers, on improving the exchange of information, and the integration of more than medical notes in a Personal Wellness electronic Record (PWeR®). We have noted the need for transparency in pricing and information flow from one provider to another. We have talked about how soon computers like IBM® Watson may be better able to diagnose you than most doctors, only because computers at their core are big on storage, speed of processing, and accessing real time information. The issue still being worked out is actually the human part of the “user interphase.” How will we communicate, quickly, accurately and relevantly?

This week a friend sent me this article “Robots in Health Care Could Lead to a Doctorless Hospital”from SingularityHub .The article poses a hypothetical situation-

“Do you take the traditional path with human medical staff, including doctors and nurses, where long-term trials have shown a 90% chance that they will save your child’s life? 

Or do you choose the robotic track, in the factory-like wing of the hospital, tended to by technical specialists and an array of robots, but where similar long-term trials have shown that your child has a 95% chance of survival?” 

The decision as a parent would be easy, “I think”…but as noted in the article we trust computers such as automatic pilots on all commercial airlines, they launch nuclear missiles and guide a rock to the international space station. We are currently trying driverless cars, and it seems the problems with driverless cars are when human intervene, or don’t act logically. Skipping the warnings from Steven Hawking’s, Bill Gates’s, Elon Musk and many other potential dangers of artificial intelligence – Will we one day trust computers with our lives, and even at our most acute phases?

In the case for hospitals the questions it poses are important. “Are the new hospitals being built now ready for a robotic future? Are we planning for large-scale role changes for the humans in our future robotic factory-like hospitals?

I have been around them from a quarter century, and although this may guarantee I never serve on a board of Trustees for a hospital again, hospitals have been slow to adapt to the “modern world.” They are highly regulated, have huge capital investments, and are very serious about protecting human life.

The entire field of medicine has been slow to change. As I have noted here before it has changed very quickly when it was an economic issue, lifesaving issue or regulation. The pressure on hospitals is still increasing every day, from government, labor and from ever more informed and demanding clients. Most physical plants are old, only in fast growing places like Florida do you even see new hospitals getting built. Other places are where the industry is mostly unregulated to grow.

So why even consider robot doctors? It is very likely in the next 50 years, that robots will be treating patients in the leading hospitals in the world. Today, robots assist doctors in surgeries, and the results seem to be positive, especially in the patient recovery period. Some wonder if there are more procedures because of the capital investment. I don’t know by just concentrating on the use of robot assistants today.

Some hospitals are trying new ways to provide care. I’ve mentioned visiting Celebration Hospital in 2000, which I still find impressive today. They were trying to change the way doctors worked, hospital rooms were built, the way they used technology, and even how patients meals were prepared and delivered. I think robots will change everything.

If they do, will hospitals look more like factories? Maybe, or maybe not. Will the one steady growth engine of the U.S. economy change if you need less nurses, aides and doctors to treat patients?

One recent article I read talked about whether computers were better to read the MRIs (other computers) than radiologists? What happens to radiologists? Will our wearables integrate with medical records be constantly reviewed by computers and then communicate directly with patients? Will hospital robots be able to down load your entire digital footprint in a Nano-second and use your medical files to leap to a diagnosis before you cross the inner doors in case of an emergency? Will we need less, yet better trained, doctors to interact with computers and robots?

“Doctors in the near future are going to need many different skills than the doctors of today. An understanding of technology will be imperative. They will need to learn programming and computer skills well before the start of medical school. Programming will become the fourth literacy along with reading, writing (which may vanish) and arithmetic.”

Who will be at risk for errors? Will medical malpractice cost be higher or lower with the use of robotics?

The final question is –“if driverless cars are going to reduce traffic accidents and congestion, then will doctorless hospitals one day save more lives and reduce the cost of health care?”

I am excited about the future of healthcare and technology, so my answer to the question above is – YES!

– Noel J. Guillama, President

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