Robot caretakers could be in your future

If the idea of a sex robot made heads turn this week, what about a robot nurse at your bedside?

Robot health care workers may be in our future, says the president and CEO of Interior Health.

Chris Mazurkewich says we are still in the early stages of AI development for specific health care products, but technology software is advancing at a breakneck pace.

RELATED: Sex robots could help your marriage: UBC prof

From a labour perspective, traditional jobs will be lost and new jobs will be created leaving patients with ultimately more control over their own health care and greater care access from remote regions.

While having a robot determine a medical diagnosis still makes many people nervous, Mazurkewich says the glitches in the system continue to evolve.

Speaking at the Interior Health board meeting on Tuesday, Mazurkewich showed a video of an elderly woman in in California who is assisted by a mobile robot to help her navigate her lifestyle and treatment schedule.

“The robot talks to me and the family has come up with a name for it—Jimmy,” she said. “It’s helpful to have that assistance but it doesn’t completely replace the need for human companionship.”

Mazurkewich said robots won’t change the sheets or give you a bath, but they are capable of sending data to doctors and reading emotions on a person’s face.

“The diagnosis is still made by a doctor but the robot becomes a device to help the patient stick to the treatment,” he said.

Mazurkewich offered another example of advances in dermatology where a device available at a drug store can accurately diagnosis in seconds whether or not a lesion on your skin is cancerous.

“When you consider the waitlist to see a dermatologist is up to a year, that kind of access to medical diagnostic equipment changes our whole concept of health care,” he said.

He labelled technology as a “health are disruptor,” changing how health care services are delivered.

RELATED: How robots might upend different professions

He cited another disruptor involving a partnership of corporate giants Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan, teaming up this year to form an independent health care company for their more than one million combined employees in the U.S.

“You can imagine that whatever developments they come up with in health care opportunities from technology won’t just stop with them. They will present business opportunities to pursue across the health care sector,” he said.

Mazurkewich also noted the federal government recently earmarked $125 million for a Pan-Pacific Artificial Intelligence Strategy, with the Canadian Institute for Advance Research in charge and adding three new research institutes in Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal.

One of the goals of this initiative is to develop global thought leadership on the economic, ethical, policy and legal implications of advances in artificial intelligence.

Mazurkewich says the AI research will lead to new health entities, new health technologies, new business models and enhancements in the doctor-patient relationship.

“That caught my eye because you don’t tend to thing of the government being at the forefront of something like this,” Mazurkewich said.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


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barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

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