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Thursday, May 16th 2013

Your Next Prescription Will Come From A Computer

Vinod Khlosa has already made it clear Silicon Valley will be at the forefront of automating health care. He made waves last year by saying that 80% of what physicians do can be done as well or better by a computer.

I can’t fault the premise that diagnoses and interpretation of studies and prescription of therapies are soon to be carried out better by computers than physicians. Now making headlines is the famous IBM supercomputer Watson. The former Jeopardy champion is being trained at Sloan-Kettering and The Cleveland Clinic.

In Silicon Valley and other centers of innovation, investors and engineers talk casually about machines’ taking the place of doctors, serving as diagnosticians and even surgeons—doing the same work, with better results, for a lot less money. The idea, they say, is no more fanciful than the notion of self-driving cars, experimental versions of which are already cruising California streets.

Of course, it will be a generational shift to accept such automation without significant human interface. But such will come. Such is coming. As well, I feel pretty safe that my job as a surgeon as safe for a while longer.