Robot Medicine

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.

9 thoughts on “Robot Medicine

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  2. My mother-in-law has dementia. Her quality of life is sinking and with it she is losing the last shreds of dignity. A couple of years ago, she was kept alive by medical intervention (free at point of delivery here in the UK but anything but free in the system of taxes we have) when it might have been kinder to allow her to slip away before she got to the point of not recognising her children but thinking a stuffed toy is going to go to ballet school. Harmless, maybe, but she needs care and it won’t get any better.

    I have no idea if we ever shalll have the will to face up to the problems of elderly people in the western world, and whether we might stop the medical interventions at some stage when ‘experts’ declare it not worth stepping in to save a life. Who those so-called experts might be, how they are appointed, who they answer to are huge questions. Most people know of instances of doctors who ‘allow’ the patient to overdose on some drug and slide away, but it isn’t a subject that is going to be aired in public.

    We have, as many of us know, a dishonest society because it will not face the issues that eventually affect us all. I am just not sure, as I say, that anyone will raise the issue anytime soon.

  3. You have terrible medical care, abusive even.

    Here in Ohio, about one week before my semi-annual exam, I go to the local hospital, and they draw a blood sample and run the tests requested by my physician. This takes about 30 minutes total in the hospital. On the way home I get a paper and some donuts.

    I go to the physician, who has the blood results, and I see him. A nurse (RN) weighs me (too high) and takes my blood pressure. 5 minutes. The doctor shows up, retakes the blood pressure (always lower and normal the second time, nurses are scary), and discusses my test results. Some banter about stuff ensues. This takes another 30 minutes total. Another paper and more donuts.

    Recently, the local hospital has been buying up private practices (my doctor’s included), and the affected physicians have become employees of the hospital. This has actually streamlined stuff somewhat because there is a common database for all my exams, test results and prescriptions. I suppose this new system will evolve into a UK/Canadian style horror show, but I am old enough to likely escape that.

    By the way, my eldest daughter has lived in Germany for more than 15 years and is a big fan of the German system.

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  5. They know perfectly well that 60% of all health care dollars are sunk into the last year of life. There is a place hidden in their duplicitous minds which covets that pile of trillions and the power it will bring to the lords of Obamacare. There is no self-correcting mechanism in government, quite the contrary. The more wreckage it brings the more power they will have.

  6. Ah, but veterinarians have an unfair advantage. If M.D.s could euthanize any of their patients that present too big a burden of time or trouble, or even if they simply botched a procedure, costs for care would decline, not so?

    • That’s a familiar counter, but reality is much different. Most pet owners spend enormous amounts on their pets, including end of life care. We put down our pets when they are suffering and no more can be done. For humans, we used to just administer pain killers and let the poor soul fade on. There’s no reason to not do that again and it is coming back in fashion. In Europe where the cost of the health care system is crushing them, the state is now pulling the plug on the old and feeble.

      There’s no escaping reality.

      • That’s OK so long as the old and feeble get to give the green light. I’d as soon not have the state (read: some bureaucrat with a degree in black and gender studies) pull my plug. (My plug is likely to get pulled before the decade ends according to the life expectancy tables, so I have some skin in the game).

        • That’s the big issue when it comes to government run health care. They ultimately get the final say and that means we are subjects of the bureaucracy in the end – literally. But it is also why these schemes will collapse.

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