What if computers take over the doctor’s office?

I don't look forward to the day when real doctors are a thing of the past

O

n a recent visit to our local clinic I was directed to a computer lurking in the corner of the waiting room where a  bright young thing told me to swipe my Care Card and then wait to be called.

In these circumstances I always meekly obey. I took my place among the huddle mass, many of them sniffling or coughing, all bored rigid. I mused that computers had truly taken over the world.

In the ensuing forty minutes, I let my imagination soar and I’ll summarize my flight of fancy.

Firstly, I was surprised when I entered the consulting room to find a large robot wearing a white coat sitting at the desk.

He smelt faintly of electricity and sewing machine oil. In a deep hollow voice he told me to insert my card into his slit of a mouth.

When his eyes lit up I was to remove the card and sit down, my interview would commence. I did. Our conversation went like this:

 

 

 

Dr.: “Why are you here? You are allotted ten minutes.”

Me: “I need my prescriptions renewed.”

Dr: “Move to the chair on your right.”

Me: “Why?”

Dr: “You cannot renew prescriptions without a full medical each time. This will be accomplished by the P.E. (physical examination) chair  while we speak. Time remaining in interview is nine minutes.”

Me: “Oh.”

Dr: “Your current medications are correct for your condition at the present time.”

Me: “That’s good news. May I have my renewals now?”

Dr. “No. We are narrowing the recommended parameters for most tests. Too many patients are passing without further medications. Remaining time is seven and one half minutes.”

Me: “I feel fine.”

Dr.: “That is irrelevant. I see you suffer from gout.”

Me: “No, I don’t.”

Dr.: “Your records indicate you take allopurinol to combat gout.”

Me: “Yes, that‘s why I don‘t suffer from gout.”

Dr.: “Argumentative patients are penalized one minute per episode. Six minutes remain. You must have a prostate exam on your next visit. You must disrobe and sit in the chair in the opposite corner. It is very quick and there is a  thirty dollar fee payable before we return your clothes. Five minutes remain.”

Me: “What’s that thing poking up in the middle of the seat?”

Dr: “Use your imagination. Four minutes remain. The P.E. chair has completed your physical with all x-rays, cardiograms and ultra sound results entered into your file. Three minutes remain.”

Me: “Could I have my renewals now and be on my way?”

Dr.: “We need a blood test. Insert your index finger into the aperture in the arm of the chair and keep it steady. Two and a half minutes remain.”

Me: “Ouch!”

Dr: “Results satisfactory until new standards come into effect. One minute remains.”

Me: “What happens if we go over my allotted ten minutes?”

Dr.: “That will not happen. At the ten minute  time signal your interview is terminated and the consulting room door will automatically open. Twenty seconds. Here are your temporary renewals coming out of my chest. Do not fold, staple or bend them. Time is up. Thank you. For your records I am RoboDoc 337 Mark  4.”

With a jolt I snapped out of my reverie when I heard my name called.

I was still in the waiting room and was shown to a consulting room.

In a few minutes my doctor entered and he was startled when I sprang to my feet and warmly embraced him.

He sniffed my breath and told me to sit down.

I obeyed.

 

— Harvy Dorval is a regular News columnist.

 

 

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