In a famous 1927 essay titled "The Care of the Patient," Francis Peabody states that the personal bond between the doctor and the patient is the source of the "greatest satisfaction of the practice of medicine." Many providers who balk at the rapid transformation of the American healthcare delivery system complain that electronic medical records and other interventions interfere with this central relationship. It is always assumed the interaction between two living human beings is central to the care of patients.
My embrace of the above conventional wisdom was first challenged by Joseph C. Kvedar, M.D.'s concept of emotional automation with its belief that humans can and will develop trusting relationships with sociable humanoid robots. My skepticism was gradually overcome by Kvedar's examples of Karen, the virtual wellness coach/avatar, who motivates human patients to exercise more than a control group, and the Boston hospital patients who preferred a robot discharge planner to a human nurse. In the latter case, the patients commented that the robot was never in a hurry and did not talk down to the subjects. >> Read the full Hospital Impact post