The PMD Critical List: Robots Can't Replace Doctors

December 21, 2015
Greg Kelly

This week’s top stories include a study on the replacement of workers with robots and the story of a 96-year-old physician who has finally decided it’s time to hang up his stethoscope.

The robots may be coming for many workers, but doctors appear safe, for now. A new study on the likelihood of robots replacing workers tops this week’s PMD Critical List. Also on the list: A report blaming physicians for much of the opioid abuse problem, and new concerns about a lack of black male medical students.

Robots Can't Replace Doctors (Bloomberg.com)

“Computer scientists, doctors, and dentists are the jobs least likely to be taken by robots as automation spreads through advanced economies,” according to a Bank of England report. Jobs with a “high creative and technical content,” and those requiring “emotional intelligence,” are those most impervious to the rise of robots.

Opioid Over-Prescription a Problem for All Doctors (UPI)

The over-prescription of opioid painkillers is being driven by a large number of general practitioners, not by specialists or “pill mill” operations as many have suggested, according to a new Stanford University study. “Efforts to curtail national opioid overprescribing must address a broad swath of prescribers to be effective.”

One of the World's Oldest Physicians Retiring (PennLive.com)

Dr. Raymond Grandon, a 96-year-old doctor practicing in Pennsylvania’s state capital, will call his medical career quits at year’s end. “The key to the long career is his regular teaching and attendance at medical conferences—using his brain like that has kept him strong.”

National Shortage of Black Male Doctors (WJTV-12)

An Association of American Medical Colleges report finds that the number of black men applying to medical school is decreasing. An Associate Dean at University of Mississippi Medical Center calls the problems “really a damning indictment on medical schools across the country.”

Medicare Penalizes Hospitals for Safety Incidents (Kaiser Health News)

The Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program is penalizing more than 750 US hospitals “with higher rates of patient safety incidents, and more than half of those places got fined last year.” Still, “the most common cause of problems in hospitals is medication errors, which remain absent from this program.”

Kaiser Permanente to Open New Medical School (NPR.org)

California-based Kaiser Permanente, the nonprofit, national provider of managed healthcare, will open its own medical school by 2019. “Students need to learn not just medicine,” says the executive medical director, “but about integrated systems of care and how to work in a much different medical environment.”

Women Outnumbered in Medical Leadership by Men with Mustaches (The Washington Post)

“Every year, the BMJ puts out a special Christmas issue full of quirky (but still peer-reviewed) studies. They're always offbeat and often quite small, but they're all designed to make you chuckle. This year, one of the humorous studies brings up a serious topic: Sexism in science and medicine.”

To Debunk Alternative Vaccine Schedules, Physicians Must Listen Then Respond (Health Affairs)

A compelling essay from a San Francisco pediatrician on vaccines. The safety of vaccines, as well as the schedule in which they are given, has been extensively studied and is fully endorsed by both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “I would be breaking my Hippocratic oath if I stood by while a parent barred an intervention that could prevent her child from contracting a deadly illness.”

EHRs Could Crash Medical System (PR Newswire)

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons conclude that “the federal government should have no role in telling how physicians how to keep their records.” EHRs instead of being a cure-all for inefficiency and medical errors, are costly, clunky systems that are worsening the problems and even driving some software experts back to paper.

Revamping Testing of Physicians to Better Serve Vets (Philly.com)

The National Board of Medical Examiners is working to improve the medical needs of veterans, soldiers, and their families. A task force will decide what is most important for doctors to learn about military-related medical issues. Getting civilian doctors to respond to the needs of military personnel has become a crusade for a former congressman-physician.

Nurses Gaining Sway Over Patient Care (RealClearHealth.com)

A new Institute of Medicine report on the state of nursing in the country is out. Findings include: There is a surge in nurses seeking advanced degrees, more NPs can prescribe medicine and treat patients without a physician’s supervision, and out of 2 million nurses less than 10% are African-American or Latino.