Are robots ever going to replace doctors? Experts say ‘no’

The panel addressed the role of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in the medical field. (File photo: Thomson Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 23 January 2020

Are robots ever going to replace doctors? Experts say ‘no’

  • The panel addressed the role of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in the medical field

DUBAI: The growing use of technology in the healthcare industry will continue to expand but should not take over from the primary care provided  by doctors and nurses, a panel of health experts said in a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum on Thursday.

The panel addressed the role of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in the medical field, agreeing that all care should remain focused on the needs of the patient, adding that “robots can’t replace doctors.”

But Leif Johansson, chairman of the board at pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca AB, said the technology would be especially essential to “screening programs and extending access to care.”

“The only way to support primary care centers with low-skilled people, for screening purposes, will be with AI, robotics,” he explained, citing India as an example of a country with a shortage of qualified doctors who can address the needs of a massive population.

While technology presents potential benefits to the industry, Lisa Sanders, Associate Professor at the Yale Medical School, said she was concerned current technology faced a “barrier in data input.”

“How is AI or the robot going to get the data they need from patients?” Sanders, the doctor who was the inspiration behind the hit US TV show “House,” said, questioning how technology “would be able to assess patients when they’re complex and confused.”

Jodi Halpern, a professor of bioethics, shared the same sentiment, and highlighted what she described as three important situations when “a relationship with an actual human doctor makes a difference for effective healthcare.”

One was taking medical history from patients, Halpern said, explaining most patients would only disclose personal information when there’s empathy from doctors.

“If we don't get a good history, we won't get a good treatment," she added.

Another was ensuring patients take medication, and lastly was helping people deal with bad news.

Sanders, a physician herself, said “it’s not the thinking” that doctors need help from technology for, but "other things like dealing with poorly conceived systems of medical records."


UK inflation surges, weakening case for rate cut

Updated 19 February 2020

UK inflation surges, weakening case for rate cut

  • The Consumer Prices Index 12-month rate jumped more than expected on higher energy bills
  • ‘Inflation figures were in line with the Bank of England’s expectations’

LONDON: British annual inflation surged to 1.8 percent in January from 1.3 percent one month earlier, official data showed Wednesday, boosting the pound.
The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) 12-month rate jumped more than expected on higher energy bills, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement.
Analysts’ consensus forecast had been for an increase in the rate to 1.6 percent from a three-year low 1.3 percent in December.
“While CPI inflation rose for the first time in six months, the inflation figures were in line with the Bank of England’s expectations, so they are unlikely to move the dial on the outlook for interest rates,” said Ruth Gregory, senior UK economist at Capital Economics.
The Bank of England last month voted to keep its main interest rate at 0.75 percent, deciding against a cut despite slashing its estimates for UK economic growth this year and next, as the country tackles tough trade negotiations with the European Union following Brexit.
Wednesday’s inflation data “vindicates the Bank of England’s decision to keep interest rates on hold in January,” said Debapratim De, senior economist at Deloitte.
“Further rises would significantly reduce the chances of a rate cut in the near future.”
Nevertheless, January’s inflation surge helped push the pound above $1.30.