Robert Pearl is a physician and CEO, Permanente Medical Groups. He is the author of Mistreated: Why We Think We’re Getting Good Health Care–And Why We’re Usually Wrong and can be reached on Twitter @RobertPearlMD. This article originally appeared in Forbes.
Technology is corrupting the culture of medicine
The concept is superb. Imagine it’s 10 p.m. at the hospital, and the nurse on duty notices a patient experiencing severe anxiety and discomfort. The nurse alerts the patient’s doctor, who’s at home. Instead of simply phoning in a medication order to help calm the patient, the doctor wants to see whether something else might be wrong. Enter the robot, which the nurse wheels into the patient’s room. With a screen for a “face,” the machine allows the patient to see the doctor and, importantly, lets the physician assess the patient’s facial expression, energy level and depth of breathing. I’ve seen firsthand how these “virtual visits” help doctors make better decisions and avoid potentially life-threatening medical errors. And most patients appreciate these digital connections. But there are times when using the “robot” is inappropriate.