Artificial intelligence is advancing more quickly than ever, especially when paired with robotics, ushering in robotic assistants for home, office and even hospital use. Some have even expressed concern over the possibility of advanced robots in healthcare replacing human workers and taking over hospitals soon.
However, such fears may be unfounded especially at this time in spite of the fact that some hospitals are already using robots in the operating rooms for complex procedures. This is because present usage of AI and robots still leave humans in charge of the actual procedure and is mainly for delicate methods that call for the precision and accuracy the robots are designed for.
This is especially true with the da Vinci surgical system, which provides a magnified vision of the area being operated on and allows the surgeon to perform small but precise movements on a patient's body. The technology has been in use for at least a decade and it has helped surgeons conduct more successful surgeries while still being in full control.
Still, there are new algorithms and technology being developed which allows an AI to compute dosage based on a patient's records, diagnose an illness based on a series of questions and analyze blood tests more accurately and in the quickest time possible. Those, however, do not necessarily mean that physicians and other healthcare workers will find themselves out of work anytime soon, according to experts.
"I don't think computers will ever supplant the doctor's diagnosis. I think things will change... a computer may become a second opinion, or perhaps even a first opinion, but the doctor will still make the final call," Professor Richard Lilford, University of Warwick's Chairman of Public Health, said. He also thinks that the idea of robots taking over hospitals in lieu of human doctors is like underestimating the work and skills doctors have.
Professor Lilford says that doctors often have to act even before a definite diagnosis is reached, which would put human intuition in the spotlight. He believes that the human aspect in medicine is irreplaceable because doctors can provide a form of psychological or emotional relief which a computer would definitely lack, in spite of AI being taught how to behave like a human.
"It's lethal to think that you can separate the psychological care from the physical care," he added.
Of course, AI is just programmed by humans and, while it does have the capacity to learn, it may not be able to take calculated risks like human doctors and just be heavily dependent on what the logical and most accurate decision should be. In other words, something along the lines of why Will Smith's character in the 2004 film, "I, Robot," has such a big distrust of the mechanical humanoid robots. Watch for yourself below.
Compare that 11 percent with an episode of "House" where Dr. Gregory House and his team would treat a patient with a puzzling disease at once according to the known symptoms.
Both a human doctor and the AI could get it right, with the AI being faster at making a diagnosis correctly. Then again, what happens if both were wrong or, despite accurate calculations, a patient's life is lost?
Some are more optimistic about the possibility of having healthcare robots since it may help streamline jobs even more. But if one really thinks about it, it's not really a "human healthcare professionals versus healthcare robots" people should worry about. In the end, it's how the existence of both in the same environment can help advance knowledge in medicine. If doctors can push more generic work or less critical procedures to robots, there's a chance that they can focus on finding a way to cure yet another disease that robots have yet to be programmed about.