It won’t be long now before the “doctor” treating you for that nagging cold is a machine.
There will be a flesh-and-blood doctor involved in the process, of course, but the robot will do his bidding remotely, perhaps through an iPad. This isn’t so crazy as you might think — Sun Microsystems co-founder and forward-thinker Vinod Khosla predicted the robotization of medicine earlier this summer in an interview with Wired executive editor Thomas Goetz. Four out of five doctors will be replaced by machines, he predicted.
It’s starting to happen, in hundreds of hospitals worldwide.
Charlie Huiner, the vice president of InTouch Health care, also sees robo-docs rising. But he’s got a different take on it. His company is developing robots that allow doctors to “provide their care and expertise” remotely, he said at the second day of the Wired Health Conference.
Huiner doesn’t call his robots replacement doctors. He calls them conduits of care. The robot’s patented autonomous capabilities let a flesh-and-blood doctor on the other side tell their android helper what to do.
“It is as easy as tapping a point on a map or a patient room [on an iPad] and the robot will go there,” Huiner told Wired.
He showcased the company’s new ‘bot, RP-VITA, or Remote Presence Virtual + Independent Telemedicine Assistant, at Wired Health with company CEO Yulun Wang teleconferencing in from another location.
“It’s like the movie Avatar, but for medical applications,” Wang said, appearing on the robot’s monitor-head, which has two eye socket-like cavities. (They’re a user-controlled, eye-friendly laser pointer.) The humanoid ‘bot, which InTouch developed with Roomba-maker iRobot, also can interface with third-party apps.