Without Empathy, Why Not Let Robots Deliver Care?

The Patient Experience Summit had a very provocative presentation by Steven Wartman about the marriage of machines and medicine. (You can view it here. Good use of movie clips!)

One of his points was that robots are doing a lot of medical tasks: dispensing medications in pharmacies, assisting with surgery and administering cancer treatment.  And, how many errors do you think the counting machine makes when counting pills compared to human error? 

There are a number of factors making this a likely trend, including care moving to many more places besides the hospital, care being delivered by a team rather than just directly by the doctor and how we are using huge amounts of data to try to understand medical issues. 

Machines have lots of benefits -- they don't get tired, they don't forget, they can be more precise. But, I bet you don't love the idea of visiting Dr. Robot to talk about your fertility issues or your cancer nausea or your dementia fears. We still want people, because people understand each other and we want to feel connected. So -- even more evidence for the need for empathy. Let's make caring more important and cede some tasks to the robots. Caring is time consuming, but in my opinion, absolutely essential.