Robots Don't Wear Belts, Science!

Robots Don’t Wear Belts: Diagnostic Robots

Injury and illness are universal parts of the human experience. All of us at some point in our lives get sick or injure ourselves. Luckily modern medicine has advanced to the point where what once were fatal diseases and wounds are now only minor inconveniences. (Which reminds me to remind you: Don’t be a jackass, vaccinate your kids.) That is not to say we don’t have a long way to eradicate all disease but its always nice to acknowledge as a species just how far we’ve come. Its also important to remember that just like we all get sick, we all make mistakes. We are not infallible, neither are our doctors. They make mistakes and when they do it can cost lives. It’s a heavy burden to bear. And one that can be eased with the advancement of new technologies. One of which is the subject of this month’s Robots Don’t Wear Belts: Diagnostic Robots.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recognizes somewhere over ten thousand human diseases. Even the most superheroic of television doctors would be unable to keep that many different potential diagnoses straight in there head and they’re fictional. In the real world its impossible to expect medical professionals to get it right one hundred percent of the time. The problem is when they don’t people die. A 2012 study by Johns Hopkins estimated that approximately forty thousand people die annually in the United States as a result of being misdiagnosed. This is where diagnostic robots could help. Using an artificial intelligence concept known as “deep learning” these robots can access every piece of medical data on the planet and cross-check all of that information against a patients symptoms. Not only diagnosing the patient’s current problems but detecting possible future ones as well. In addition to its big brain, a diagnostic robot can be linked to wearable tech that can continuously monitor a patient’s vital signs.
There are a wide array of policy issues to work out before this technology can be used on a massive scale. How to ensure patient confidentiality with all of their information floating around in the cloud for one, but also questions like who is legally responsible if the diagnostic robot screws up and whether or not the robots suggested preventative measures will be covered by insurers. But this is not the policy part of the blog. It is the Science! Section and here we are solely concerned with the benefits this technology could provide. And if diagnostic robots became standard issue the word over the lives that would be saved would likely number in the millions.

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