Blog | Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dr. Robot to the rescue

In all the whining about the impending crisis of primary care, everyone has forgotten one obvious solution at our disposal--robots. Two news items released today describe how electronic devices will soon be replacing health care providers:

"In the not-so-distant future, American seniors may turn to helpful, uncomplaining robots to fill the worrisome 'care gap' that many face today," explains the HealthDay News. In addition to buying groceries, fetching dropped keys and checking blood pressure, the rolling, talking robots (think Rosie, the Jetsons' maid) will have internet connections and video monitors so distant relatives can "jump into" them. In its most creepily sad touch, the article explains how a grandmother could hold the robot's hand as she shows her garden to her faraway grandchild.

And if the realization that you've so neglected Grandma that she is reduced to cuddling titanium has depressed you, tell it to your cell phone. A Japanese professor has launched the world's first web-based cognitive therapy program available through your mobile. The enterprising psychotherapist had previously treated the country's crown princess (although presumably she got in-person service).

He explicitly states that the program is intended to compensate for a national shortage of psychotherapy specialists and doctors. Could a robotic, wired general internist be next?