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Medicine Science

Unnecessary Medical Procedures and the Dangers of Robot Surgery 130

Posted by samzenpus
from the danger-will-robinson dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The LA Times reports that in a new report aimed at improving healthcare and controlling runaway costs, a coalition of leading medical societies has identified nearly 100 medical procedures, tests and therapies that are overused and often unnecessary. The medical interventions — including early cesarean deliveries, CT scans for head injuries in children and annual Pap tests for middle-aged women — may be necessary in some cases, but are often not beneficial and may even cause harm. 'We are very concerned about the rapidly escalating cost of healthcare,' says Dr. Bruce Sigsbee. 'This is not healthy for the country, and something has to be done.' Each of the specialty medical societies has provided a list of five procedures that physicians and patients should question about the overuse of medical tests and procedures that provide little benefit and in some cases harm. A 2012 report from the independent Institute of Medicine estimated total waste in the system at 30%, or $750 billion a year. 'Millions of Americans are increasingly realizing that when it comes to healthcare, more is not necessarily better,' says Dr. Christine K. Cassel." According to pigrabbitbear, it's the robots we should be wary of. He writes "'We are committed to helping victims of robot surgery receive the medical care and compensation they deserve. As both a lawyer and a licensed medical doctor, Dr. Francois Blaudeau has made it his mission to fight for the victims of traumatic complications as a result of botched robot surgery.' That's the opening salvo from the medical malpractice lawyers who run the slick fear factory of a website, BadRobotSurgery.com. According to the doctor-lawyers behind it—doctor-lawyers like Francois Blaudeau, MD, JD, FACHE, FCLM—'thousands of people have suffered severe and critical complications at the hands of surgical robots. In fact, 'robotic surgery has been linked to many serious injuries and severe complications, including death.'
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Unnecessary Medical Procedures and the Dangers of Robot Surgery

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  • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Friday February 22, 2013 @08:37AM (#42978645) Homepage Journal

    If they are so concerned with healthcare costs, then why is the exploding number of non-medical administrative personnel ever mentioned?

    When I lived in a certain large Midwestern city the medical office I went to contained about two financial office personnel for every medical staff person.

    Of course one reason is that they have to have a staff to fight the insurance companies at every turn... but no one will ever talk about that.

    Yes... there are medical procedures that do not need to be done, but the problem is like so many in everyday life: there is a huge number of high end administration that don't do squat and make huge salaries.

  • by xtal (49134) on Friday February 22, 2013 @08:50AM (#42978733)

    The same robots that can assemble iphones will be able to do open heart surgery.. except many, many times faster. The same cameras that provide high speed film will be able to drive high speed image recognition of what needs fixing, in multiple spectrums, in real-time.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KxjVlaLBmk [youtube.com]

    That is one lab in Japan, and it's several years old. The state of the art in this technology is nothing short of breathtaking. It's being driven by cheap processing time. 50 years of computer science (real computer science) on vision systems is now all coming to life.

    What's the problem? Well.. it will render advanced surgeries a commodity. Doctors have egos worse than fighter pilots, and you just wait until drones and computer piloted autonomous planes start shooting down the real deal. It's over then. Doctors are not stupid people, and the smarter ones are realizing this now.

    Robotic surgeries will dramatically improve life for millions of people, and while there is a development curve, they will ultimately be superior in every way, as sure as hand-milling was replaced by CNC equipment.

    Exciting times we live in.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Friday February 22, 2013 @09:07AM (#42978885)

    Same thing goes for surgeons, but a robot has two qualities that your run of the mill surgeon doesn't: It is consistent in its results (you can end up in the hands of a drunken surgeon, someone who just lost a familiar, or it just happens to have a bad day), and it is cheaper (in the long run).

    Robotic surgery doesn't mean what you seem to think it means. It isn't an autonomous robot doing the procedure. It is a doctor doing the procedure using robotic technology to enhance and assist. It improves capabilities for minimally invasive surgery and remote surgery but it is not what you are describing.

    Automation is coming to all other aspects of life, shedding jobs at its wake. I don't see why doctors need to be protected from that, as long as automation brings some benefits to society.

    Common misconception. Automation does not "shed jobs", it simply pushes the jobs elsewhere. We automated farming and that freed the labor force to work in manufacturing and services and we all have benefited greatly from that shift. Manufacturing is now being increasingly automated for many things freeing labor for more valuable tasks. A lot of work is not value added. A lot of my work is as an accountant. Theoretically I could keep the books by hand like they did before computers with large staff but that adds no economic value to what we do, just cost. Better to use Quickbooks and automate and apply that labor more productively elsewhere. The purpose of jobs is not to provide a paycheck. The purpose of jobs is to do economically useful work. If a machine can do the work more economically that labor needs to be applied elsewhere.

    Doctors don't need to be protected from automation any more than anyone else. If anything they welcome the productivity improvements automation can provide, particularly on the administrative side of things. But it's pretty hard to automate a checkup or removing an appendix. We give them a lot of training because those skills are not presently replaceable with any technology we possess. Perhaps that will change someday but it won't be anytime soon.

  • by javilon (99157) on Friday February 22, 2013 @09:50AM (#42979313) Homepage

    Robotic surgery doesn't mean what you seem to think it means. It isn't an autonomous robot doing the procedure. It is a doctor doing the procedure using robotic technology to enhance and assist. It improves capabilities for minimally invasive surgery and remote surgery but it is not what you are describing.

    Well, you are mostly right, but having a robot involved, even if it is minimally autonomous, means a complex tool is being used, introducing some consistency to the part of the job it does. A bit like the difference between using an automatic plant to build a car versus doing it manually like it is still done with italian sports cars.
    But this is only the beginning. I have seen reports of the next wave of medical robots becoming more autonomous, like sensing the type of tissue and refusing to go into the wrong type.

    Common misconception. Automation does not "shed jobs", it simply pushes the jobs elsewhere. We automated farming and that freed the labor force to work in manufacturing and services and we all have benefited greatly from that shift. Manufacturing is now being increasingly automated for many things freeing labor for more valuable tasks. A lot of work is not value added. A lot of my work is as an accountant. Theoretically I could keep the books by hand like they did before computers with large staff but that adds no economic value to what we do, just cost. Better to use Quickbooks and automate and apply that labor more productively elsewhere. The purpose of jobs is not to provide a paycheck. The purpose of jobs is to do economically useful work. If a machine can do the work more economically that labor needs to be applied elsewhere.

    This one uses examples from the industrial revolution that are not applicable anymore because the rate of automation is far faster (and accelerating), meaning that the economy doesn't have enough time to rellocate workers to other basic tasks before they are automated as well. In fact, the way things are going, non educated people will have a hard time competing with machines in any basic job. By the time we get around to change society, we'll have so much unemployment that it will be very difficult to manage. This time is the singularity. It is not just better tools that are removing jobs, it is artificial intelligence, of the non strong variety (for now). What is left for the workers to compete?

    Doctors don't need to be protected from automation any more than anyone else. If anything they welcome the productivity improvements automation can provide, particularly on the administrative side of things. But it's pretty hard to automate a checkup or removing an appendix. We give them a lot of training because those skills are not presently replaceable with any technology we possess. Perhaps that will change someday but it won't be anytime soon.

    If ten years doesn't sound like anytime soon to you, then you are right. The speed things are going, it will start about that time. Please google references to IBM Whatson. It is not a robot, and it is only labeled as an assistant to diagnostic, but it already is capable of being on top of all of the literature about cancer, and make suggestions based on that. This is something very few doctors can do, or have the time and interest of doing. In any case, I agree doctors don't need special protection. That is my point. But it is also true that they will use their collective power to try to stop technology if they see it as threating their position, so it is quite likely they will lobby for regulations using scare tactics.

  • by tibit (1762298) on Friday February 22, 2013 @10:32AM (#42979851)

    My problem is the opposite: it's not about the unnecessary stuff, it's about the cheap, non-invasive things they could do that they stay away from like if it was a transplant or something. My pregnant wife had to spend a couple of hours bleeding in the ER for a clueless resident to finally pick up the ultrasound and tell us "well, there's an apparently intact fetus with a beating heart, stuff happens, no need for a cleanup surgery, go home". They were already setting up an OR for a D&C -- what kind of an idiot does that before doing a basic ultrasound that takes 60 second start-to-finish?!

    Another story: I have a solid family history (with tombstones and documented post-mortems to prove it) of plaque formation in coronary arteries, and the doofuses would drag their feet on noninvasive transthoracic ultrasounds of precisely the non-invasevely accessible parts of those arteries that were problematic in my family! I mean, come on, how stupid do you have to be.

    Some guys I know decided they've had enough of bullshit and simply got an ultrasound for themselves to play with. It doesn't take 6 years of med school to do a decent doppler coronary artery exam. You simply need enough practice and access to rudimentary literature (and a modicum of intelligence). When you have the tool in your basement, you can get more hands-on time in a month than a resident gets in a year. Of course it helps if you're an engineer and can troubleshoot things and fix them when something breaks.

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