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."


Saudi Space Commission set for SR2 billion boost

Updated 29 October 2020

Saudi Space Commission set for SR2 billion boost

  • Space business and space economy are expected to grow into the trillions of riyals as we go forward: Prince Sultan bin Salman, Chairman of Saudi Space Commission

RIYADH: The Kingdom is planning an SR8 billion ($2.1 billion) boost for its space program as part of Vision 2030, said Saudi Space Commission (SSC) Chairman Prince Sultan bin Salman.

The commission has finalized a plan for the government, expected to be revealed later this year, under which the sector’s budget would receive an initial boost of SR2 billion.

“In the time where we live now, space is becoming a fundamental sector of the global economy, touching every aspect of our lives on Earth. Space business and space economy are expected to grow into the trillions of riyals as we go forward,” Prince Sultan said.

The commission was set up by a royal decree in late 2018 to stimulate space-related research and industrial activities.

“We believe there are a lot of opportunities that exist in the space sector and we, in Saudi Arabia, intend to tap these opportunities at all levels,” he added. 

Prince Sultan, who chaired the Saudi Commission on Tourism and Heritage for 18 years, said the Kingdom aspired to become a global player in the space industry while advancing prospects for future generations.

The Saudi space sector’s current return on investment is SR1.81 or every one riyal invested. This compares with a return of between SR7 and SR20 for every riyal invested in the sector in advanced economies, according to SSC data.

SSC plans to sign agreements with international agencies in the US, Russia, China, India and the UAE to boost cooperation, said Prince Sultan, who flew aboard the US Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985. He was the first astronaut from an Arab or Muslim country in space.

His duties onboard Discovery as a payload specialist included releasing the Arabsat satellite, which was a breakthrough in connecting the region with the rest of the world.

Saudi Arabia is a main founder and financier of the Arab Satellite Communications Organization (Arabsat), launched in 1976, with a 37 percent stake.