Doctor Shortage or Surplus

Doctors
One of the issues confronting the health care system in America is the impending addition of tens of millions of uninsured people. Medscape Today has a very interesting three-minute video by Dr. Eric Topol, author of The Creative Destruction of Medicine, about whether our nation is on the verge of a healthcare provider shortage, or whether clinicians are being phased out by algorithms (Topol, 2013).   One of the examples he cited is the Remotoscope, a new consumer device that turns an iPhone into an ear-inspecting otoscope. (See Emory University video). A simple clip-on attachment puts a scope over the iPhone’s camera lens and enables it to take pictures of a child’s ear canal. The accompanying app magnifies the image and sends it to a pediatrician who can study it remotely.   Taking pictures daily could allow the physician to monitor progress and potentially avoid antibiotics, which could help reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance. This is one of many examples of new technology combined with mobile phones that can perform sophisticated algorithms to help in the diagnosis of disease. At a minimum, physician productivity could be increased. In some cases, consumers will be able to self-diagnose. Topol believes that 75% of echo-cardiograms can be eliminated by the use of an iPhone app. There are obvious risks of patients self-diagnosing, self-prescribing, and possibly self-destructing. Topol’s conclusion is that physician productivity will be increased substantially through the use of new technology and perhaps the shortage of physicians some predict may turn out not to happen.
Reference 
Medscape. (2013). Topol on replacing clinicians with algorithms. Medscape Today. Retrieved from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/805212