When in a hospital, it’s easy to recognize a physician. Often clad in sterile white, they race through the hallways with a stethoscope draped around their neck and a clipboard or a chart in their hands. This image, however, is beginning to change. The familiar lab-coat physician, in some areas of the world, is being replaced by a cold, metal robot with a television screen as a face. This new, electronic face, it seems, is changing the face of medicine itself, one patient visit at a time.
The advanced, state-of-the-art robot, RP7, is quickly garnering worldwide attention. Able to take patients’ vital signs and even read chart notes, this robot has developed many important skills relative to patient health. Another interesting aspect of this robot is that it directs all of the information that it receives– a patient’s pulse, medical history, etc. – to a real-life physician, whose face often appears on the robot’s television screen. This allows patients from isolated parts of the world to consult, in real-time, with leading physicians via a webcam. In fact, this technology, which could potentially be life saving, has already been implemented in a hospital in Ireland, among other geographically diverse locations.
The RP7 robot’s unique features contribute to its positive reception by physicians and patients alike. Firstly, it allows a physician to zoom in on parts of a patient’s body so that diseases and problems can be more easily detected. With this feature, a physician, for example, can determine if a patient is suffering from jaundice by examining the whites of their eyes. Secondly, the implementation of robot doctors can lead to a more rapid process when it comes to the prescription of medicine. This is because physicians are not required to travel to the patient, which, in some cases, can take hours. With this shortened wait-time, patients can receive treatment, consultation, and be prescribed medicine much sooner than with a traditional physician visit.
Robot doctors, however, are not without their critics. Some physicians and privacy analysts worry about the security of this system. The risk of sensitive information being hacked or accessed inappropriately is, of course, top of mind. Additionally, there is also the risk of superficial and incomplete examinations that could result from this form of technology.
Undoubtedly, there are still questions that must be answered with regards to robot doctors, however, this technology represents an emerging trend that could transform patient care.