Doctors Replaced by Robots? Wait a Minute…

Industry insights
By Dave Parent

In its July 10th web edition, Forbes magazine published an article with a disturbing title: “Prepare yourself, robots will soon replace doctors in the healthcare.” This statement is clearly exaggerated and requires further explanation. According to Kinova Medical Robotics expert, Stuart Kozlick, there is no need to be alarmed.

The article by Harold Stark uses the example of personal healthcare robot Mabu, from Catalia Health. It’s programmed to help patients remember to take their medication, keep a record of patient progress, communicate this to the physician and offer coaching to patients on the challenges of dealing with chronic illness. This is a robot that partially replaces home care nurses. The journalist does, however, specify that this robot does not replace the need for an attending physician.

“Robotics will not replace doctors — robotics will be an additional tool to help improve surgical practices in order to cure more patients and save more lives”  -Stuart Kozlick

The other example given in the article is of an eye surgery consisting of removing a 100th of a millimetre-thick membrane from a patient’s retina. The intervention was successfully led by a surgeon at Oxford University John Radcliffe Hospital using a remotely controlled robot, and the patient on the operating table recovered his sight. Surgery like this requires a level of precision that humans are unable to attain. This was the first time a robot was used to operate on an eye.

Always a Human Nearby

“At Kinova, we believe that robotics must be used to empower humanity. From our perspective, robotics will not replace doctors — robotics will be an additional tool to help improve surgical practices in order to cure more patients and save more lives. Robotics allows us to overcome the natural limitations of the surgeon, performing procedures so precise they would be impossible for a human to accomplish, but there will be a professional behind the machine who will make all the crucial calls,” explains Stuart Kozlick, Vice President, Medical Robotics at Kinova Robotics.

There’s no doubt that healthcare robotics raises a number of ethical issues. Can we trust robots and artificial intelligence when it comes to making life or death decisions? Will technology have the foresight to evaluate the moral implications of its decisions? According to Mr. Kozlick, this is a false debate.

“Artificial intelligence will not decide these critical issues. There will be doctors behind the technology to evaluate the different situations to the best of their medical knowledge. Doctors’ expertise will be at the heart of the practice and human interaction between doctors and patients will be part of the healing process, no robot will be able to do a better job at that,” Kozlick concludes.

Learn more about medical robotics

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