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)
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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."


IMF extends visit to crisis-hit Lebanon: sources

Updated 24 February 2020

IMF extends visit to crisis-hit Lebanon: sources

  • The IMF began meetings with Lebanese authorities on February 20 to provide broad technical advice
  • Lebanon is grappling with an acute liquidity crunch that has prompted banks fearing capital flight to impose strict controls

BEIRUT: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) will continue meetings with Lebanese authorities on Monday, sources familiar with the process said, extending a visit to provide technical advice that was expected to end on Sunday.
The IMF began meetings with Lebanese authorities on Feb. 20 to provide broad technical advice on how to tackle the country’s crippling financial and economic crisis. The fund had said its team would stay until Feb. 23.
Lebanon has not requested financial assistance from the IMF as it draws up a rescue plan to tackle a long-brewing financial crisis that spiraled last year as capital inflows slowed and protests erupted against the ruling elite.

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The sources familiar with the meetings said talks would continue until the Lebanese government made a decision on issues related to the technical assistance. The results of the meetings were “positive,” they added, without specifying further.
Lebanon is grappling with an acute liquidity crunch that has prompted banks fearing capital flight to impose strict controls. The Lebanese pound has slumped by about 60 percent on a parallel market, hiking inflation.
Saddled with one of the highest public debt burdens in the world, Beirut must decide quickly what to do about fast-approaching debt payments including a $1.2 billion Eurobond maturing on March 9.
Global credit ratings agencies Standard & Poor’s (S&P) and Moody’s downgraded Lebanon’s credit rating deeper into junk territory on Friday, citing anticipated losses to creditors from what they said was a likely debt restructuring.