When will your specialist be replaced by a computer?

When will your specialist be replaced by a computer?

"As Australian, British and American universities continue to graduate increasing numbers of medical students, the obvious question is where will these new doctors work in the future?



It is in the area of medical diagnostics where many people see possible significant cost reduction while improving accuracy by using technology instead of human doctors.

It is already common for blood tests and genetic testing (genomics) to be carried out automatically and very cost effectively by machines. They analyse the blood specimen and automatically produce a report."



Currently, many radiological tests performed in Australia are being read by radiologists in other countries, such as the UK. Rather than having an expert in Australia get out of bed at 3am to read a brain scan of an injured patient, the image can be digitally sent to a doctor in any appropriate time zone and be reported on almost instantly.

What if machines were taught to read X-rays working at first with, and ultimately instead of, human radiologists? Would we still need human radiologists? Probably. Improved imaging, such as MRI and CT scans, will allow radiologists to perform some procedures that surgeons now undertake.

Ross Crawford, Professor of Orthopaedic Research, Anjali Jaiprakash Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Medical Robotics and Jonathan Roberts, Professor in Robotics, all from the Queensland University of Technology, speculate on where Information Technology is likely to increasingly aid and even replace medical professionals:


Most importantly, will computer programs have a better bedside manner? :)


8 Replies

  • I particularly like the effective idea of specialists being available for internet consultation 24/7 in different time zones as the world rotates.

  • I apologise in advance if my post has a touch of sarcasm but it's hard to resist in view of my experience with my haematologist.

    Members from the UK may know of the comedy sketch here from 'Little Britain' where an unconcerned official in drag (David Walliams) listens to every question, looks at the keyboard and says, 'the computer says NO!' which allows for every request to be denied. Believe me it's funnier than I've described!

    My haematologist is of the old school, possibly trained in the days when haematologist's oversaw the labs and didn't venture into the human arena. In fact many still work in this way. So the lab results are his guiding master and they don't lie! Apparently....

    So when I reported signs of a swollen spleen his eyes shot to his computer screen for evidence. No, no, no, it can't be. The computer, it says 'No'. But the computer doesn't tell the whole tale in CLL because it's too unpredictable, too non specific. The ultrasound contradicted the computer findings to vindicate my painful experience.

    This forced him to examine me...

    So I'm sceptical about a total reliance on technology because it omits the human condition, the physical nuances and the unique differences and it's completely oblivious of emotional suffering. So whilst I hope it's used skilfully as a tool and to communicate with patients efficiently, I live in dread when it's allowed to say 'No' when the illness is screaming 'Yes!'.


  • Dear Newdawn,

    I feel your pain! How insulting to have a doctor look at a computer screen and say no it can not be true! Are you kidding me? Perhaps a computer can do an accurate job of interpreting blood results according to whatever program it has been set up to measure but it can not understand the human element. I have no time for such treatment. I am very sorry this happened to you. Is there any way to switch to a "new school" doctor? I would be so done with this guy.


  • If only Kathy! In the NHS we are pretty much at the mercy of the specialist attached to our local hospital and at mine they're struggling to recruit. However, as things progress I will be asking for a specialist opinion but that will mean travelling some distance. But it will have to be done if he isn't replaced by then.



  • Hi given the extreme high costs of medical care and treatment surely this is just one way to cut costs. Then the real live doctors can deal with the difficult cases and those which actually need a specialist. I am having remote care from my specialist. I did agree to this. I can see all the advantages. Yes I am sure that the system will not be foolproof but no system is. Perhaps this is just one tool in the toolbox. Best wishes

  • Hi, my g.p., not haematologist, banned all computers from the practice, except the one screen for appointments. I don't know why, it might be a sore point for some so I never asked. The practice does run quite smoothly, very friendly and personal. Perhaps that is what he wanted to protect..

    By the way, my first haematology appointment will be on Monday, 15.2.16. Progress!

    It will be a long day, but I hope/expect to get away with w&w.


  • Seems there well may be robots as well as computers providing our future health care. Anjali Jaiprakash, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Medical Robotics, Jonathan Roberts,

    Professor in Robotics and Ross Crawford, Professor of Orthopaedic Research and all from the Queensland University of Technology explain:


    You may have heard of the Da Vinci Surgical System - a robotic surgical system which was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000 for adult and pediatric use in urologic surgical procedures, general laparoscopic surgical procedures, gynecologic laparoscopic surgical procedures (prostate and hysterectomy surgery), general non-cardiovascular thoracoscopic surgical procedures and thoracoscopically assisted cardiotomy procedures:


    A major new public hospital in Australia that will open this year has already been designed to enable robots to collect drugs and other medical goods from central stores, package and deliver them to nursing stations while also delivering meals to patients.


  • Automated empathy?


    I don't know... perhaps they can pick up problems that would otherwise be overlooked...

    Mr. Doggie.. 'If you love me you would do it ' run a search on You Tube for Little Britian... or Little Britian USA...

    The computer says no....

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