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Robots and computers will never replace doctors

Says Eitan Debi, a 27-year-old doctoral student in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Technion, who is also studying medicine at the same time

Eitan Debi Photo: Shlomo Shom
Eitan Debi Photo: Shlomo Shom

"Robots and computers will never replace doctors," says Eitan Debi, a 27-year-old doctoral student in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Technion. "In my experience, technology cannot replace human interaction. Throughout history people turned to healers, healers or shamans. Humans need interaction and human touch, so they will never be able to trust only robots."

Eitan, a graduate of the track in biotechnology from Yale University, knows what he is talking about. He grew up in the USA and came to Israel five years ago to study medicine in the American program of Tel Aviv University. Three years ago, he took a break from medical studies in favor of a doctorate in the bio-robotics and bio-mechanics laboratory of Professor Alon Wolff in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Technion. "I wanted to specialize here in medical engineering, because I knew that this field was being developed in Israel." This school year he returned to finish his medical studies.

"It is very exciting to live in Israel. Israeli hi-tech culture, especially in the field of medical devices, is very advanced, and I saw the inherent potential here in the combination of engineering with the world of medicine. I learn a lot from the patients I meet. Engineering for the benefit of medicine - this is the only way to see our inventions work.

"Surgery is the greatest penetration into the human body. A surgeon has more than a decade of training, and it is difficult to bring robots to the level of such a surgeon. There will always be a need for someone human to be in charge. We engineers give medicine technological tools, but do not claim to replace them. It is important that the technological change in the field of medicine happens slowly, because it is a matter of human rights, and the one who stands trial in the end is the surgeon, not the robot."

In his doctoral thesis, under the guidance of Professor Wolff, Eitan Debi focuses on the rehabilitation of patients after knee surgery. He supervises the treatment process and examines the biomechanics of the patients who come to him with a worn knee as a result of osteoporosis - a common medical problem, which causes patients great suffering and exhaustion. The common solution to the problem is knee replacement surgery, after which the pain decreases and most patients are very satisfied. "By 2030, in the US alone, approximately 3.5 million people will undergo knee replacement surgery each year at a total cost of more than 9 billion dollars. However, many operated on fail to return to a normal level of functioning, and recently more and more evidence is accumulating indicating that a significant percentage of patients continue to experience chronic pain and functional disability even after surgery. This pain leads to a decrease in quality of life and dissatisfaction even after many years. Also, there is a fear of long-term complications with the replacement knee. It can be said that these people now have a 'Mercedes knee' but they are not walking correctly, and are impairing the long-term success of the surgery.

"These patients suffer from pain and therefore adapt to themselves a way of walking, which may damage their muscles and damage the replacement knee. To improve their walking form we offer them biomechanical therapy to change walking patterns. This biomechanical treatment program succeeds in significantly improving the movement patterns of the knee joint. This effect is reflected in a significant improvement of pain, function and quality of life. The treatment plan also includes fitting special shoes for the patient, and he takes them home and walks in them for 30 minutes to an hour every day.

"A half rubber ball was attached to the sole of the shoe, so it makes the user unstable. To stabilize, the patient is required to activate his muscles, and thus he strengthens muscles that help him get used to the replacement knee. The improvement in walking reduces the pain and improves the quality of life of the patient."

In his lab at the Technion, Eitan treats 50 adult patients from hospitals in the north of the country, who have undergone knee replacement surgery, or are in the pre-surgery phase, and suffer from cartilage erosion and overuse of the knee joint. "Their quality of life is very problematic," he explains. "It's hard for them to walk, they don't work, and their health condition makes them moody and depressed. They come to me from all over the country referring the hospitals. They come both before and after surgery. The shoe may prevent the need for repeat surgery and surgery on the other leg.

Even after completing his doctorate, Eitan plans to continue collaborating with Professor Alon Wolf and his lab. "It's an amazing laboratory," he concludes, "and I'm grateful to be a part of it." In the future, he wants to become an orthopedist, combine the two worlds and bring medical technological equipment to the patient's bedside, for the benefit of the patient. "Next year I will finish my medical studies, and I don't want to choose between the world of engineering and the world of medicine, but to combine both. My medical background is critical to the engineering research," he adds. "Specializing in medical engineering allows me to know how things work. I wanted to bring engineering to the medical world. I would not have come to this particular study if I had not studied medicine. The best part of my research is the focus on interacting with the patients. I am here for them, and so I also receive the full response from them.

"In providing treatment to the patient, I want to combine the two worlds. My knowledge and medical background serves me well in my engineering studies, I am the only one in my medical studies cycle with an engineering background. In the future, engineering will be integrated into the world of medicine more and more. As an engineer I am interested in whether the device works or not. As a doctor I dedicate time to patients, listen to them, build relationships with them and help them in other areas as well. As an engineer I want to get a perfect product out of my hands, but as a doctor it is more important to me how the patients feel.

"As an engineer, I would be happy for the hospitals to use more advanced technological medical equipment. They are open to new ideas and technology, but it takes them a long time to introduce new technologies."

14 תגובות

  1. I came to this article by chance, now 2019, I was looking for articles about the use of machine learning (Machine Learning) and the future possibility that medical software will replace human doctors and even surpass them. As it stands now, not only is it going to happen because it makes sense and will provide better medical solutions than we have today, but it will also happen much faster than we think. It will not take 1000 years, but 10-20 years. The revolution is already at hand, it has begun. It's not a matter of "if" but "when". With the help of principles of "machine learning" and "artificial intelligence" computers can be taught to be "the best possible doctors". In simple terms, think of it as "teach a powerful computer all the knowledge that all the doctors in the world have and then teach it how to choose the most appropriate treatment for each medical case, based on all the knowledge that will be stored in it". It is as if all the world's medical knowledge is stored in the brain of a single doctor, and he is able to retrieve the required information in a matter of seconds. It's not science fiction, it's called technology and it happened several times in human history, such as the printing revolution, the autonomous cars and more. These are "second game" events that did happen gradually, but from the moment they reached maturity, it is no longer possible to go back and there is no point in doing so!

  2. I am always amazed by the people who dare to predict what will "never happen".
    Where the hell do they get the courage to determine what will happen (or not happen) in another 50 years? 200 years? 1000 years?
    Do they really think that technology will advance so little in the next 1000 years that even in another whole millennium we will not be able to reach artificial intelligence and the delicate equipment necessary to build androids that are almost completely human-like?

    Haven't they seen movies? Did you read MDB? Do they have no imagination in their minds?

    I don't understand this thing.
    It is clear to me that the exact opposite is true: at the rate at which technology is developing, I have no doubt at all that in the future (I do not commit to a time frame, it could also be another 100,000 years, although I believe it will be much earlier) we will succeed in producing artificial life and also artificial intelligence that will not fall from the natural one, And even surpass it.
    There is no "mysticism" or "magic" here, it is pure science.

  3. In my opinion, it is not only that robots (computers) will replace doctors, but much more than that.
    The robots (computers) will be much better doctors than the flesh and blood doctors of today.
    They will also cause a situation where the doctors will have to defend their professional dignity. Something that has not been the same since the beginning of medicine.

  4. Other things they said:
    The plane has no use beyond entertainment in the circus
    Explore everything that can be explored, no more new things will be discovered
    A computer user does not need more than 640K of memory
    There is no need for more than five computers in the world
    A computer is an industrial thing, people have nothing to do with it at home

  5. It is quite clear that computers will perform the identification of diseases by various means, especially the analysis of a blood test for thousands of parameters. Surgical intervention will be done in combination with a doctor and a robot, when the robot is managed and directed by the doctor. Computers will check the interaction of drugs that the patient is receiving. A little further from the patient himself, computers are already being used for drug development (the latest Nobel Prize) and without computers it would have been impossible to conduct surveys on tens of thousands of people to test the effect of food, behavior and drugs on health.
    After everything I've written, I still don't believe that robots will completely replace doctors in the next 100 years. Later we will see.

  6. Who said doctors would have to replace a knee, maybe we'll take a pill that will serve as a catalyst for creation
    A new knee.
    And basically I agree with the anonymous user; the prophecy was given to fools.

  7. I agree with what was said before me.
    Not long ago it was also said that robots would not be able to assemble a car and that this means of transportation would be safe.
    Today over 80% of vehicles are assembled by robots.
    Time takes its toll. Evolution does not stop for a moment and does not miss the industry. She is also making great strides there.
    It's all a question of time and money.
    About the concern, the solution is on the way..

  8. A somewhat pretentious statement I would say... Reminds me a bit of Garry Kasparov's statement a few years before he was defeated by the IBM supercomputer in a game of chess.

  9. The doctors and surgeons will also be replaced, a computer can contain amounts of information of all medicine, in the middle of all the medical history in the world, it can calculate and examine the probability of diseases with greater accuracy than any ordinary doctor.
    In surgeries, he can achieve a precision and performance that no flesh and blood surgeon will ever achieve, with all the years of experience.
    When computers enter the field of medicine, doctors will move to work on a nurse basis.

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