PHYSICIANS/TECH: Technology won’t replace doctors — and it won’t cut costs, at least so says a doctor

Kessler’s book on how doctors will get replaced by technology is dissed by a doctor who points out that he had to go to medical school and learn stuff that you could never teach a CT Scanner, dammit! And those bastard venture capitalists next door earn far more money! I suspect steel workers in the 1960s said the same thing. I’m not exactly sympathetic to Kessler’s argument, but with defenses of the status quo like this…..

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  1. Lets be realistic here. A lot of diagnosis that doctors do are analogous to a lookup table. With some fuzziness to it.
    Patient comes in… Symptom #1, Symptom #27, Symptom #18 – hmm.. sounds like illness #58 or #123. Test #43 will allow me to tell the difference between illness #58 and #123. So, its #58, I will prescribe medicine #43.
    Seriously.. You think a machine can’t do this? Machines in the present day does much more complicated tasks. Artificial intelligence is a huge field that is growing by leaps and bounds.
    Knowledge about the human body can be easily programmed into a machine. And if the machine makes mistakes, it can be diagnosed and fixed “permanently”.
    ER doctors and surgeons for example will not be replaced anytime soon I think because of the “physical” nature of their work. But, “family doctors” I think will have competition from machines soon.
    I refuse to accept that our society must pay doctors so much money for doing such simple tasks – they simply don’t deserve that much money.

  2. I still belive that technology may replace a lot of doctor’s functions. It just did not yet, but heading toward that.

  3. Technology will not overcome human irrationality until it can change its own mind.
    No one wants to have a spreadsheet tell them what to do, even if it’s correct.

  4. I know technology is something to embrace, but people will have to program these machines or produce the computer chips, so there is always room for error. We need the health care professionals!

  5. While I agree that technology is fast changing and we must embrace (and not resist for selfish reasons)it, I seriously doubt that machines would replace physicians anytime in the next few decades.

  6. Not sure if anyone watches “House” on the Fox channel. I’m no doc but if that show is about what thinking docs should be, with the help of the techno gadgets, then I’m for thinking docs using technology, not replacing thinking docs with technology. Let me know when you have replaced the brain.

  7. Wait a minute. Is Kessler saying that technology will replace ALL doctors? If so, thats clearly not correct.
    Now if he’s saying that techology can replace radiologists and some other specific areas of medical practice, then I think thats plausible but I dont see it happening for at least another 25-30 years or so.

  8. I wasn’t dissing all doctors. I am one. My son and husband are also doctors. I love this profession. But we need to embrace new ways of doing things, not whine about maintaining the status quo.

  9. I agree with John. Pat Salber is clearly infected with self-loathing, or maybe Cambodian Communist party self-criticism disease!

  10. (The attitude from this blog is unbelievable. I cannot understand why there is so much disdain for physicians here.)
    One, technology has greatly improved our ability to make proper diagnoses. But I dare say that as many as 40% of patients that I see in my office on a daily basis do not have a hard diagnosis that any test or exam can make. I’m not saying that the diagnoses are too difficult for a machine; I’m saying that there isn’t a diagnosis! But these patients are ill nonetheless, and need treatment. Often the proper cure is a tincture of time and the reassurance from a trusted physician. You will not get this from a machine.
    Two, where does the technology come from? Physicians working with engineers and scientists. Do your best to cut back on medical education and decrease the supply of physicians, and you will stymy the progress in the very same technology touted here.
    Three, this technology is one of the big cost drivers in medicine. The tests are done indiscriminately because of patient demand (either by directly requesting specific tests or indirectly by buying malpractice ligitation scratch tickets). Reward the good physicians appropriately, make it a profession desirable to the cream-o-the-crop college students, protect our sanity by reforming the malpractice conundrum, do away with all the other hangers-on who are trying to profit from illness (e.g., commercial insurance companies) and then you will have brilliant minds working to make the best and most appropriate use of these technological advances, as well as other tools like midlevel providers.

  11. Prolo’s rant is, in large part, wishful thinking. I was in training as a physician during the era when CT scans first got introduced into practice. Prior to CT, neurologists did excrutiatingly thorough, time-consuming neurologic examinations to try to figure our where the lesion was, anatomically, that was causing the patient’s symptoms. Now, they get a CT, or a MRI, or a PET-CT or something else that I don’t even know about. Why? because, well, these imaging technologies are more accurate than the physical exam. Would a neurosurgeon attempt a brain operation based on a neurologists best guess based on an physical exam? Come on now, Dr. Prolo, the technology genie isn’t going back in the bottle. And society is not going to pay handsomely for docs to fill out disabled placards.