While there may seem to be endless advantages to the integration of technology into surgical practices, there are both disadvantages and controversies that come with it.
One of the most pressing issues involved with the merge of technology and surgery is the threat to doctor’s jobs. What with the advancements to artificial intelligence technologies, concerns about robots taking over human jobs seem more and more validated. While surgeons have many capabilities, there are limitations to their abilities. For instance, they are not geometrically accurate, in that they are not easily able to place an instrument in an exact location and move it in a defined trajectory. This, however, can be accomplished through accurately programming a robotic instrument that is able to exert a predefined force in a particular direction. Surgeons are subject to fatigue and clumsiness as a result of confined spaces for long periods of time . And, ultimately, surgeons age and lose some of their skills. These shortcomings make the fluidity and capabilities of machine seem more desirable in order to improve patient care and safety yet there is widespread fear of robotic dominance of the medical field.
Another controversy is cost effectiveness of technology implementation. There exists a potential restriction on investment in new health care technology. With more advancements in medical technology comes more spending on health care in the U.S. Some studies suggest that the demand for certain surgeries is directly caused by purveyors of the surgical technology . This can lead to the preference of an expensive procedure even if there is little to no benefit to the patient. In order to evaluate the cost per patient, executives of health systems have to determine if the costs of investing in various new medical technologies will increase or reduce the other factors such as the amount of time a patient will stay in the hospital post-operation or the number of visits that a patient will have to make to a physician’s office.
An additional disadvantage to using smart medical technology is the fact that robots are completely logical and do not contain code to feel empathy. In this respect, human capabilities far outreach those of computers. One of the most important aspects of a physician’s job is the patient interface. Doctor-patient interactions are imperative to establishing a connection, and therefore trust, and provide individual comfort to patients. Artificial intelligence is heavily reliant on logic, as everything in its code is cut and dry–allowing it to function with little error. While this logic permits computers to surpass human abilities in certain practices, it restricts robots from connecting with patients on a personal level. Furthermore, it constrains computers’ abilities to take calculated risks to preserve human life like doctors are able to, and instead makes them dependent on what the logical and most accurate decision should be . In certain instances, this could mean that the computer does not attempt to save a patient’s life, whereas a doctor would do as much as possible to save the life.
Here is a video from the movie, I, Robot, that demonstrates an instance where artificial intelligence used logic instead of empathy to provide medical care.
While there are many controversies to the implementation of technology into the medical field, there are many advantages to counter them. The future suggests that technology will only continue to establish a strong presence in the area. Since many human shortcomings do not affect machines, robots will be able to complement humans by remedying some of the defects. By allowing for improved dexterity, enhanced and more informed diagnoses, and advanced tele-education, a monitored integration of technology into medicine can improve patient experience and surgical outcome. As long as artificial intelligence is used to further the capabilities of human surgeons and not to replace them, their adoption and advancements bode well for the future of medical technology.