Medical treatment, visits to the dentist or doctor, and any kind of personal and intimate inspection can be a trial for many of us. This fear or dislike has been thoroughly explored in many sci-fi movies, with people being shown to interact with machines and ‘smart’ computers that discreetly diagnose them, sometimes without even being asked to!
These treatments can be beneficial, quickly raising possible issues and sorting them out by adding vitamins or medications to food, drink or supplements without the person needing to remember to take their pills or take any action themselves. In these types of movie, the medic computer is seen as mere background utility, while the actual plot unfolds against this cutting edge modern wonder.
In the other types of movie, these all knowing, all powerful computer systems can use medical information against the protagonist, controlling them by administering drugs, blocking controls to doors and ignoring command to allow overrides. In these plots, the pernicious and disturbing omnipotence of computers, artificial intelligence systems and robotic servers is played up as being undesirable. The machines are shown as being literally inhuman, not responding to emotions or appeals, instead reducing everything down to statistic and probabilities. These movies generally have a ‘bad guy’ lurking in the backgrounds, hacking into the system for his own nefarious purposes, or they have a super intelligent but malevolent artificial intelligence driving the system, or a perfectly good system develops a mysterious glitch that knocks the programming off just enough to cause mischief and mayhem
As always with innovation, fiction leads the way, exploring the possible good outcomes and the possible bad outcomes. Instead, the truth is often something halfway between the good and the bad. Modern medical intervention probably will owe something to artificial intelligence and something to robotics, but it will most likely be something more like a photography booth crossed with a self-service shopping system.
Patients will probably sit in a chair and use a touchscreen to begin the process: age, date of birth, gender etc. A discreet scale could be mounted into the chair, and a blood pressure cuff could attach to the chair. Bloods can be examined microscopically, meaning that a mere pinprick’s worth of blood could be examined for a whole gamut of conditions, infections and diseases. If testing processes keep up with the speed of technology, it is possible that blood tests could be run while the patient waits, even as more testing is done.Of course, there are some things that a computer will never be able to do, and it is almost certain that at some point in the day, the patient will be referred to a flesh and blood doctor – one who will have all the possible answers, potential diagnoses and the odds of which condition it is being neatly printed off for them. This means that those with serious conditions can be treated promptly and correctly, and that the doctors will have enough time to spend with the patients who need extra care, while those who are bunking off work or who are not really ill enough to need a doctor can be sent on their way, reassured that their symptoms are not the life threat that google made them think it was!