I had my annual physical this week. That means two hours of my life wasted staring at the wall wearing an apron. I should not complain as the process for me is efficient compared to what others must endure. I get to the facility 15 minutes before my appointment and I’m sitting in a room somewhere within 30 minutes. In that time, I have submitted my urine sample and filled out some forms.
A pleasant black girl with neck tattoos took my blood pressure and had me strip and put on one of those ridiculous hospital gowns. I’ve always wondered why someone has not come up with a better hospital gown, but there’s zero motivation on the part of the medical profession to demand it. The medical business is not a business in the normal sense, where the suppliers compete with one another for customers.
I don’t actually see a doctor. Instead it is a nurse practitioner. Allegedly there is a doctor in charge of her and the other nurses, but I’ve never met him. I’ve never seen him. I’m sure he exists, but if not I would not be surprised either. The woman I see is nice, but a typical clock puncher. She comes to work for a check, not because she enjoys her work. To her, I’m just another meat stick on the schedule.
After twenty minutes of waiting, she arrived and commenced with the examination. That means taking my blood pressure, looking at my eyes and ears and feeling around for something weird. Most of the time she is in the room is spent asking me questions as she typed the answers into the computer system. Most of the questions seemed like they were for marketing purposes rather than anything to do with my health.
The point of this boring recitation of my annual physical is that very little of it requires me to interact with a human. Taking blood pressure can be done by a machine. I have one at home. Blood work is done by a machine. The clinic I use does their own blood work, allegedly, but there are huge national chains that do blood work for humans and animals.
As far as interpreting the results, the nurse I see is not bringing much to the table. She thinks my cholesterol is getting a little high, but Dr. Google and everyone I know has much higher LDL levels. I suspect there is a commission check in it for them when they prescribe these popular medications for cholesterol. Regardless, interpreting blood work is better done by a robot anyway. The same is true of the urine sample.
It seems to me that one place where the robot future should be a reality is in basic medical care. Instead of paying an arm and a leg for disinterested humans to act as a go between, let the patients talk to the robots direct. A mall kiosk could be used for blood pressure, urine and blood work. While you’re there you answer questions on a touchscreen. A week later the robot e-mails you the results and any recommendations.
Of course, the robot would also have access to your DNA. As we march into the humanless future, DNA will become the touchstone of medical science. Connecting the dots between genes and a wide range of diseases is a data problem, in most cases. Cheap collection devices in public places means masses of data to sort of collate.
Robot care would inevitably be cheaper and that means more people would get regular checkups by their local neighborhood robot doctor. If this sort of service were $50 a shot, most people would do it twice a year. Extend the services to things like flu shots, and nuisance things like colds and allergies and most of your basic care could be done on the cheap by the machines.
Another benefit is the payola schemes run by the pharmaceutical companies would be tamped down as robots are not easily bribed. During my visit, two sets of sharpies arrived peddling their wares. They were dressed in the best Men’s Warehouse has to offer and had arms full of freebies for the nurses.
It’s the same payola game the music industry used to play in the old days. It’s not technically bribery, but give a doctor free stuff and he is probably going to move your product. The medical profession denies it, but big pharma is not giving away tens of millions in trips, gifts and schmoozing because they are stupid. They do it because it works.
Of course, none of this is going to happen because the medical rackets are neatly aligned with the ruling liberal democrats. America does not have a government run system like Britain; it’s more of a partnership between the industry and the state. That way, we get the worst of both worlds. On the one hand there’s the avaricious private suppliers and on the other the mindless idiocy of government.
I’m fond of pointing out that we have all around us one of the greatest health care system on earth. American veterinarian medicine is better than what most humans enjoy on earth. It’s also cheap and plentiful. That’s because it is largely government free and parasitic lawyer free. Maybe when the robots take over, they can just kill all the lawyers and bureaucrats. Then maybe medicine will because a normal business again.