Replace doctors with robots now, please

It’s a widely held belief that eventually all living human doctors will be replaced by robots. Some say as soon as 2035.

I say, “Why wait? Replace me now!”

If the idea of a robot diagnosing and treating — and examining — you and your loved ones seems objectionable, please reconsider.

There are actually several advantages of robots over so-called “human” doctors:

Doctors are prone to burnout. If a robot burns out, just replace the battery pack and reboot it. Physician burnout is a much thornier issue. In its worst forms, physician burnout can incapacitate a good doctor — or render him or her unable to practice medicine.

Doctors have “opinions” or “impressions” about what’s wrong with their patients. Robots — not at all. The artificial intelligence (AI) programmed into robots will make such opinions unnecessary and, in fact, a sad and sorry anachronism — just a throwback to the day when doctors still needed to hazard guesses in medicine.

Robots have a much shorter pipeline to the front lines of patient care. Most doctors “practicing” medicine today had four years of post-graduate education (i.e., medical school) and a three-year medical residency — at absolute minimum — plus a lifetime of continuing medical education.

Robots have about one day on the factory floor (being built or assembled) and maybe another day of initial programming and “tweaking” to remove any rogue robot tendencies, God forbid, or non-compliance with HIPAA/Stark Law/EMTALA.

Robots can very quickly and decisively solve the serious doctor shortage problem our country faces.

Not enough doctors? No problem.

Just order a shipment of shiny, freshly-minted robots.

Burned out human doctors? No problem. Just dump the human ones and replace them with always polite and never acrimonious, argumentative, or arrogant robots.

Robots can lower the high cost of health care in this country. Let’s face it, call it what it is: human doctors are simply a necessary evil and a very expensive one at that. My patients tell me this all the time!

And many of the clinical decisions doctors make are expensive to patients and to the health care system as a whole. With robots, we will need fewer expensive MRIs or “miracle drugs,” which are really only a “miracle” on the bottom line for pharmaceutical companies.
So for your next breast exam or pap smear … go see a robot. And gentlemen: the robot will never fail to find, palpate, and accurately characterize your prostate. Its sizeable metallic finger will self-lubricate before insertion.

I say speed production of my robotic colleagues.

I’m tired of listening to human doctors complain about declining reimbursements, increasing administrative burdens, and the other myriad frustrations of practicing medicine in our highly fragmented and frequently maddening sick care system.

Enough already!

Please replace the human doctors with robots. You can start right here, right now — with me!

I envision the following scenario not long in the future when I have gone to see my health-plan assigned robot for medical care:

Dr. Cooper: Do you know, I was involved in the process of bringing robots like you to the front lines of medicine?

Robot: Really? You don’t say. Now, bend over for your prostate exam. Biting down hard on this tongue depressor might help with any temporary discomfort you experience.

Joel R. Cooper is a family physician who blogs at his self-titled site, Dr. Joel Cooper and on Twitter @joelrcooper.

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