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Robots in Medicine

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the what-could-go-wrong dept.

Robotics 135

eberry writes "The Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center will use a robot to mix intravenous medications and prepare its syringes. The robot, about the size of three refrigerators strapped together, can fill 300 syringes an hour, each with a custom dose and a bar-code label routing it to a particular patient. The robot should reduce the potential for errors and improve patient safety. The robot still needs further approval by the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy, but that should come within a month. It should be noted that five Cincinnati hospitals already use computerized pill-dispensing systems." On the other hand, reader Bobbert sends in a cautionary note: "'A group of German patients has filed a lawsuit against financially beleaguered Integrated Surgical Systems Inc., alleging that the Davis company' Robodoc surgical robot is defective and dangerous, according to a company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.' So now with robotic surgery, both the doctor and the robot can liable for damages. Next thing you know, telecoms will be liable for medical malpractice if the network connections fail during remote robotic surgery."

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Human Error and Logic (5, Insightful)

fembots (753724) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256709)

Will these robots "sense" possibles error in the prescription though? For instance if the doctor entered the incorrect dose, an experienced nurse might just be able to pick it up, but a robot will just do as told.

It reminds me a tail strike incident [taic.org.nz] where the pilot entered the incorrect weight and the system didn't pick it up. The incident report stated that the weight/speed combination should not have been allowed by the system at all, but nobody wrote that checking code at the beginning.

Re:Human Error and Logic (3, Funny)

dcarey (321183) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256779)

Will these robots "sense" possibles error in the prescription though?


I'm sorry, your question does not compute. Shall we play a game of chess?

Re:Human Error and Logic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11256824)

I wonder what operating system they use in this
thing. Image how failsafe it might be if it actually runs any version of Windoze.

Re:Human Error and Logic (4, Informative)

Nurseman (161297) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256859)

For instance if the doctor entered the incorrect dose

I've worked with these types of machines for years, they WILL pick up these kinds of errors, but they will also give alot of false positves. Many times the doctors will order more than the maximum dose, in emergencies, in cases where the person is very sick etc. The machine will not dispense "more" than it is programed to. In these instances, I just opened it with a key, and took what I needed. Drove supervisors crazy :-). The nice things is they pick up on interactions that me, the nurse, or the MD may not even know about.

Fear is part of the problem (5, Insightful)

paranode (671698) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256878)

People just don't like to trust machines. Some of this is for good reason, but all faults in machines lead back to human error. If humans incorrectly filled, say for example, 200 prescriptions a year and ended up killing 10 people it would be bad and maybe some people would get sued and some folks would lose their licenses. If a machine made one mistake in the course of years that resulted in a death, we'd have everyone up in arms talking about how this could have been prevented and that we're letting people die at the hands of evil machines and then we'd have a battery of laws passed against machines. Unfortunately this sense of losing control takes over people and fear kicks in, even if the machine is 100 times more accurate than a human at the same task.

Re:Fear is part of the problem (1)

Hyecee (809818) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257500)

This kind of fear has more to do with a "bandwagon" mentality combined with a kind of herding instinct than it does with people not trusting machines. I'll agree that there is a general phobia of anything new, but would argue that the herding-bandwagon mentality is more responsible for the kind of reaction you envision. The same reaction is evident all the time toward specific incidents that are over-hyped out of proportion. One innocent shark mistakes a swimmer for a seal and all of the sudden the local government is issuing rewards for shark skins. The only key is that something has to happen to the victim that they themselves could not do anything about. No eating the pretty (and poisonous) mushroom, no bungee jumping accidents. You have to have been walking along a cliff and have it cave in under you to make sure it gets fenced off to the rest of the world.

Re:Fear is part of the problem (1)

Hyecee (809818) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257532)

Or I could just not see your whole last sentence.

Well, Instead of a rebuttal, apparently I just agree with you.

Re:Fear is part of the problem (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257506)

Part of the fear is rational and part is irrational.

I basically agree with your post. But you seem to have left out both error-multiplying nature of machines and their general inablilty to detect errors.

-Peter

Re:Fear is part of the problem (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11257560)

The area I reside in has a LOT of railroad tracks crossing the road.

Most of these crossings are "blind" because of trees, curves, etc...

I've never once in my life checked to be _sure_ that there was no train coming when the warning lights weren't flashing.

And I've never thought about this fact until now.

How many times have I trusted my very life to what must amount to nothing more than a simple relay circuit?!

I say bring on the bot. :)

Re:Fear is part of the problem (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257706)

There is a good reason to be leary of machines: automated fuckups.

The blessing and curse of machines is that they can do the same thing a thousand times over precisely and very quickly. If it's the right thing, they're great. If it's the wrong thing, you're really screwed. To manipulate your example, if 100 people stupidly forwarded a virus-laden email to all their friends, that would be bad. When someone invents an email client that can do the forwarding automatically without the human doing anything, you get "I Love You". Or imagine a nurse filling a dozen syringes with the wrong dosage versus a machine filling several cabinets full.

Machines are great, but I am absolutely for having only the highest of standards for their use for medical purposes. The laws should not however be based around banning machines, but around nailing anyone to the wall who sells a faulty machine due to negligence, inadequate testing, or fraud. I'd like to think the mechanism and laws for this are in place, but recently the FDA has been, shall we say, dissapointing.

Re:Human Error and Logic (4, Informative)

drmike0099 (625308) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256951)

All prescriptions in a hospital are reviewed by a pharmacist before being entered into the computer system. If the hospital has computerized physician order entry, they additionally go through checking as the order is placed. Nurses still take the drug in their hand and review it before they administer it. Humans still review everything.

This replaces the very error-prone menial task of filling up vials with the appropriate dose and concentration of medicines. Assuming the system works as intended, there is absolutely nothing being lost here, only gained.

Re:Human Error and Logic (1)

word munger (550251) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257753)

My father has worked for years in a robotic prescription-filling department. He visually checks each pill bottle the robot fills against a computer database photo showing what that particular pill is supposed to look like. His department only handles refills: a human has to fill the initial prescription. He says there are far fewer errors in this system than the old manual system, and it eliminates many sources of human error. Of course, a human still has to fill all the hoppers with the right pills, so there still is the potential for error there, especially with many pills looking quite similar. Then the error might be repeated over several hundred prescriptions, instead of just one.

Re:Human Error and Logic (1)

underpar (792569) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257022)

It would help to the extent that a calculator prevents errors in math. If the input is wrong or if the answer is 'low battery' a person would have to be there to figure it out.

Re:Human Error and Logic (3, Insightful)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257040)

In theory, pharmacists are indespensable human elements that go over these prescriptions, ensuring that bad combinations of drugs aren't administered (some combinations of drugs have a habit of reacting in the blood stream and forming a precipitate that clogs veins and arteries, among other things). In theory, doctors are supposed to be superhumans as well, and not prescribe these combinations.

In reality, there are no super humans. Its not something the medical profession enjoys admitting. New studies of drug interactions come out regularly, and few can really keep up with the pace. If you were to test a pharmacist and a robot during a month long study, I'd expect that either the robot wins, or the pharmacist winds up being extra dilligent on behalf of the study and ties it for perfection.

You act like its impossible to program in failsafes, like nobody knows exactly how much is too much, let alone poor helpless software engineers. Certainly, lives are put at risk in both avionics and medical computing. In this case, however, one of the core duties is to check exactly for these things, which places extra emphasis on an already important task.

Re:Human Error and Logic (2, Interesting)

MotherErich (535455) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257185)

Anyway you look at it - it all comes down to human error. A doctor, nurse, programmer. The most rational way to look at it is what's going to help us save the most lives. There's always going to be human error, we can't prevent that.

Think about where the 'robot' is getting the prescriptions - what if someone puts the wrong medication in the wrong storage area of the machine? (I presume the machine's got a number of different med's to deal with) It'd be the same if the nurse somehow grabbed the wrong bottle from the shelf.

Bottom line: faster + more efficient = more lives saved
Unfortunately the equation gets a lot more complex when you factor in fear, doubt, and lawsuits.

There's always going to be someone to say, "if only it wasn't for that damn machine!"
But then there's always going to be someone to say, "if only it wasn't for . . . the countless other things that can go wrong in life."

-brother bummer & daddy downer

Re:Human Error and Logic (1)

nizo (81281) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257311)

I would be more worried that the hospital will hire some untrained minimum wage slave to refill the robot instead of a more expensive nurse. Somehow I doubt the robot would know it is dispensing medication that has been loaded in the wrong place.

In other news... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11256723)

The governments of Vancover, Canada and Amsterdam, Netherlands have placed orders of 10 of these machines each presumably to placed on street corners.

Re:In other news... (1)

TheGavster (774657) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257662)

You know, putting powerful painkillers in vending machines could mean the end of income taxes, if done properly. Not to mention taking out the bottom levels of society as well ...

Just someone else to get sued (3, Insightful)

drsmack1 (698392) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256746)

I hate frivilous lawsuits, but at least with a human doing the filling of drugs there is some common sense that can be a fail-safe. With a machine all it takes is a bug to have 300 vials of poison dealt to unsuspecting patients. Won't there still need to be human oversight?

Re:Just someone else to get sued (2, Insightful)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256821)

To the best of my knowledge, it's human oversight that causes most drug administration accidents...

Prescribing errors. (2, Interesting)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256831)

> I hate frivilous lawsuits, but at least with a human doing the filling of drugs there is some common sense that can be a fail-safe. With a machine all it takes is a bug to have 300 vials of poison dealt to unsuspecting patients. Won't there still need to be human oversight?

Take a look at your doctor's handwriting the next time you get a prescription. If you can't figure it out, your pharmacist probably can't either.

Human oversight is having sufficient presence of mind to ask your doctor "What drug am I being prescribed? At what dosage? In what form?", remembering the answer, and comparing what your doc told you with what's on your prescription... and with your pharmacist gives you after reading your prescription. In at least one recent study, around 6% of prescriptions result in errors [ama-assn.org] .

In the absence of that oversight, I'll take my chances with the robot.

Re:Prescribing errors. (1)

multiplexo (27356) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256959)

No kidding, there was recently a case [newstarget.com] at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle where a woman who was admitted for a routine procedure was killed when she was injected with the chlorhexidine solution used to prep the skin prior to catheterization instead of the contrast dye. So much for human oversight.

Re:Prescribing errors. (1)

stupidfoo (836212) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256963)

I'll take my chances with the robot.

Nice line. It'd make a good sig, me thinks.

Re:Just someone else to get sued (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11256961)

Maybe we need Robot Lawyers for the robot pill-dispensers.

Re:Just someone else to get sued (2, Funny)

dcarey (321183) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257053)

but at least with a human doing the filling of drugs there is some common sense that can be a fail-safe. With a machine all it takes is a bug to have 300 vials of poison dealt to unsuspecting patients. Won't there still need to be human oversight?

Kinda frightening isn't it? For comparison:

Robot Bartender. Error = client is drunk. [packworld.com]

Robot Pharmacist. Error = client is dead.

Re:Just someone else to get sued (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11257552)

With a machine all it takes is a bug

This system is not so complex that bugs cannot be eradicated. If someone builds a system that takes source A and source B and mixes them into spout 13 in such a way that it is too complex to maintain, they need to start over.

In fact, the system probably consists of 500 plastic tubes hooked up to the medicine components with 500 little pumps that squirt out a measured dosage into the mixer, which spins a little then dumps its contents into a syringe (if the mixer wasn't already the syringe itself), which then drops into a labeller and rolled out a chute in the front of the machine. Flush the mixer between each batch.

The drug mixing part would basically be a lookup table (ie, for drug xyz we need 3ml of #234, 1cc of #13, and 1cc of saline). Making sure the lookup table was correct for every possible drug would be about as fun as proofreading a phonebook, but possible.

The labelling part would be harder, especially at the speed they claim to be able to dispense. Making sure the labeller was always in sync with the mixer, and guaranteeing the labelling was done in time for the next syringe to be labelled.

Re:Just someone else to get sued (1)

jeffy124 (453342) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257275)

I dont think a computer bug is likely to be the cause of vials of poison being accidently sent to patients. Human error might strike first in the form of someone refilling the machine with the incorrect drugs. Instead of replacing a canister of Drug A with a new canister of A, an orderly accidently hooks up Drug G. Result could be a dead patient who needed Drug A and got G instead.

As an analogy - stores like Loews have a machine that mixes paint to the customer's desired color. The machine starts with a base color (eg, pure white) and adds various amounts of red, blue, yellow, black, etc to the can to get the desired color. A similar error here would be replacing an empty blue canister with a red canister. The error likely wont be noticed until someone gets a can of paint that required the blue mix. At least this would be easy to track down when the store employee goes to check the paint color before selling the paint.

Hacker practical joke (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11256750)

All you need is a hacker with a sense of humor and that circumcison can turn into a sex change.

Puts the I in IRobot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11256760)

The I stand for Injector++.

Robotic anal probing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11256761)

When can we look forward to the day when robots do the bulk of anal probing and diagnostic screening for colonoscopies? As a proctologist, I would gladly hand some these types of jobs over to robots.

Robots in the hospital (4, Insightful)

Icarus1919 (802533) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256774)

Until the system is fixed so doctors and nurses don't have a constant case of jet lag from being up for different shifts every day, introducing new ways to prevent careless errors is the best way to save lives.

Re:Robots in the hospital (1)

LostSinner (546906) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257454)

My girlfriend actually works at Children's here in Cincinnati. I just emailed her about them making it into a /. article and haven't had a chance to talk to her about what she knows, but I thought your post was quite perceptive.

The schedules that nurses and doctors work at hospitals are just bizarre to me as a guy with a regular schedule. I don't work a job where people's lives are in my hands on a regular basis, but I have a regular schedule. It's not odd to see my girlfriend work 7AM-3PM on monday, 11:30PM tuesday to 7AM wednesday and then 3PM to 11:30PM wednesday and then a twelve hour shift on the weekend. She's always worn and stressed out when she comes home. It seems to me that these kinds of professionals in particular could benefit from having a regular schedule. I'll never understand it.

Poor analogy... (1, Insightful)

rednip (186217) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256784)

This analogy is unfair...
' So now with robotic surgery, both the doctor and the robot can liable for damages. Next thing you know, telecoms will be liable for medical malpractice if the network connections fail during remote robotic surgery."
When you build a product, there is (at least) an implied warranty that it is fit for a specific use. A surgical robot, *should* be able to conduct an operation. We aren't talking an apples and oranges thing here. I think the auther is trying to place a back end comment about tort reform.Now tell me again why we need tort reform...

oh, yea, Malpractice is up 25% in 10 years (but medical costs have risen much higher...).

Eep! Imagine the barcode scenario... (3, Funny)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256789)

Boop...

Boop...

Brrz!
"Benzadrine. Price check on Benzadrine."

*shudders*

There's still a level of human interaction (4, Interesting)

bwcarty (660606) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256808)

From what I read, the robots don't administer the injections.

Having been through chemo, I know that the first thing the nurse did each time was show me each of the syringes that were to be injected into my IV. Each was labelled with the medicine name and dosage.

I never saw the syringes being filled, but since I'm still alive, I trust that there's some degree of verification before I even saw the bag that contained all my chemo meds. For all I know, a robot could've mixed the meds, and I'd be none the wiser.

Re:There's still a level of human interaction (2, Insightful)

Nurseman (161297) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256933)

Having been through chemo, I know that the first thing the nurse did each time was show me each of the syringes that were to be injected into my IV. Each was labelled with the medicine name and dosage.

Its called the "Five Rights" it is how you are supposed to verify the patient : Right Drug ?
Right Dose ?
Right Route ?
Right Patient ?
Right Time ?

I dont care if it's Tylenol, the nurse should ask you this each time he/she gives you anything.

Re:There's still a level of human interaction (0, Redundant)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257363)

Kinda hard if you are giving it to someone already half-asleep on vicoden or whatnot.

Remote robotic surgery... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11256829)

I hope the PunkBuster folks are hard at work on an update, or I see nothing but problems ahead for this technology.

Can't resist... (-1, Flamebait)

mogrify (828588) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256843)

I, for one, welcome our new robot pharmacists.

Re:Can't resist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11257294)

I, for one, welcome our new robot pharmacist[ overlord]s.

Tort reform urgently needed! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11256845)

To bring back sanity to the medical system, we need to keep patients from being able to sue doctors or hospitals for malpractice. We need to make sure that those who are trusted with our health have all the tools necessary to get their difficult job done, so we need to end the insanity that is medical malpractice lawsuits.

Re:Tort reform urgently needed! (1)

Kobun (668169) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256943)

So the doctor who mis-diagnosed 2 of my grandfather's three heart attacks should be totally protected from all consequences of his actions? I think you need to clear up the above statement, otherwise it seems extremely stupid right now.

Re:Tort reform urgently needed! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11257538)

Absolutely. It is because of liberals like you that the costs of medicine are going up much faster than what people can afford. Doctors are not gods, they make mistakes. Patients need to understand that doctors can not and should not be sued by every tom, dick and harry that wants to make a quick buck off their parents heart attack or bout of cancer.

Re:Tort reform urgently needed! (1)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257859)

Doctors are not Gods, that is true.

Doctors are human beings, capable of all the range of human deed and misdeed that everyone else is subject to.

Should they be given carte blanche in their actions? No consequences?

I would agree that it is a bit too easy to sue, and that there are some people who take advantage of that. I dont think that eliminating the ability to take a doctor to court is the answer. That would put us in the position of the doctor being able to do anything with impuny.

Where in the parent ( to your post ) do you see someone looking to make a quick buck?

In every other industry, if you make a mistake in your product or service that harms people, you are liable for that harm. In what way is this different?

Re:Tort reform urgently needed! (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256957)

To bring back sanity to the medical system, we need to keep patients from being able to sue doctors or hospitals for malpractice. We need to make sure that those who are trusted with our health have all the tools necessary to get their difficult job done, so we need to end the insanity that is medical malpractice lawsuits.

And before we can get to that point, we need to insure that doctors don't actually perform malpractice [apsf.org]

Patients, not patents. (1)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256848)

A group of German patients has filed a lawsuit...

Whew, for a second there I thought the EU patent system had screwed up.

Re:Patients, not patents. (2, Funny)

Hiro Antagonist (310179) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257610)

No, see, that's Germany. Only in Soviet Russia did patents sue you.

Telecom liability (2, Insightful)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256858)

"Next thing you know, telecoms will be liable for medical malpractice if the network connections fail during remote robotic surgery."

Telecoms usually have a clause for any business loss due network disruptions. I think that would apply here.

Re:Telecom liability (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257176)

Then the network architect who designed that unreliable network into the critical path, with lives on the line, is guilty of malfeasance.

Re:Telecom liability (1)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257914)

Lives are on the line today with telecom networks, this robotics situation wouldn't be anything new.

911 calls is one example.

Similiar to the OS "life / death" clause (1)

lxt (724570) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258010)

It's similar to the standard Windows / Mac OS clause of "This OS is not designed for life / death or mission critical operations"...as if you'd actually want to run Windows in one of those areas :)

Brings a whole new meaning to... (4, Funny)

Message Board (695681) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256902)

blue screen of death

Re:Brings a whole new meaning to... (1)

HarveyBirdman (627248) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256986)

blue screen of death

Step into the light...

Error code (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11257070)

0xDEADBEEF

Interesting Thoughts about Telecoms (1)

Kobun (668169) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256906)

A curious thought struck me about the submitters comments. Telecoms would almost certainly have heavy contractual stipulations about their degree of liability, if they were the providers for remote surgical connectivity service. IANAL, of course, but it would seem to me that there would have to be very specific events described where the telecom would be at fault (their own operator cuts the power/line, for example) while most other occurances (freak storms, non-related contractors) would be excluded. Has anyone had any personal experience with this out there? It would be interesting to hear how they set up a liability structure for such a critical thing. Also, during remote operations is there a qualified in-person backup handy?

Gives a whole new meaning to "Pusher Robot" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11256910)

I don't trust that one with my life. I'm only letting the Shover Robot dose me with the morphine. He'll protect me from the terrible secret of catheterization.

use your common sense (2, Interesting)

painehope (580569) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256925)

Next thing you know, telecoms will be liable for medical malpractice if the network connections fail during remote robotic surgery

Yeah, and engineers might be held responsible if the bridges they design and build fail under normal/expected operating conditions.

Oh, that's right, I believe they are.

If the country gets hit with a tactical nuke, I think it's understood that shit happens. If some underpaid joe in Bumfuck, Idaho drives a piece of heavy machinery through the fiber conduit, I expect you to have a near-transparent failover. That's what engineering is about. It's about having the knowledge and experience to design and test well. That's why some people have objections to MCSE or RHCE certs using the word "engineer".

If you're providing the network service for my remote robotic surgery, you goddamn well better have a fault-tolerant re-routable network in place. And an on-call heart surgeon who can be there in minutes. Because if your negligence messes me up, you better believe that myself or my children will pay you a visit personally. We'll have a little chat and it will involve a butane torch and a ball peen hammer. That's a personal message from me to you, mister golden-parachute budget-cutting book-cooking CEO.

Re:use your common sense (1)

TheGavster (774657) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257723)

The problem comes when you can either have a lifesaving proceedure performed by a robot over a fallable link, or go without and die. People get enraged over the failed link, even if without it they had certainty of death instead of X chance of death.

Re:use your common sense (1)

painehope (580569) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258123)

there's just one problem here. You're assuming that it's not doable to have a system that is reliable to 99.999...% - it is. It's not that hard to have redundant routing into a site, across the net, and into the other site.

Shit, if we can keep porn sites up, we can keep a link that someone's life depends on up - in most cases. And you can most definitely have an on-staff physician ready to step in. That's the ultimate fail-over procedure.

And as far as people getting enraged, if you tell me that I have at least a betting chance on a procedure, and the staff do their best, I'm not going to be mad if I die ( not that I would have much to say anyways ). If I'm given a 10% chance to survive an operation, I'll just go home and drink whiskey, eat steak, and shoot heroin until I die. But if I elect to have an operation, and I die because some wanker couldn't design a redundant link, then I fully expect my children to exact a brutal vengeance on whoever is ultimately responsible.

RALP (1)

Billy the Mountain (225541) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256940)

My boss uses a robot for performing Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomies. I've got an 8 minute video at www.DrSlawin.com [drslawin.com] so you can see how they place the ports--they screw the robotic manipulators right to the anesthetised patient's abdominal wall. Then the doc sits down at the console and operates away.

BTM

Cool Possible Acronym Name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11256947)

I'm wracking my brain to come up with words for "DEALR"...get it? It's a robot that mixes drugs and prepares syringes so it's a dealer...eh, nevermind.

Oh, the 'R' could be for Robot! :p

Re:Cool Possible Acronym Name (1)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257912)

Dose Effecting And Labeling Robot.

Oh my! (2, Funny)

HarveyBirdman (627248) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256962)

The robot, about the size of three refrigerators strapped together...

Well, I hope it's not for internal use. Can you imagine that thing crawing up your colon?

Oddly, I think some of you could. :-)

Aw, man, here comes another Troll/Offtopic mod. :(

read the fine print (1)

museumpeace (735109) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256965)

...Next thing you know, telecoms will be liable for medical malpractice if the network connections fail during remote robotic surgery."...

I like lawyer bashing as much as the next human but buy just about any grade of service from any telco and you have signed an agreement which, in some obscure paragraph, says more or less "provider will not be held liable for consequential damages that may result from interrupted service". The Disruption of Service [cablevision.com] clause for Cablevision is typical.

robots suing robots (1)

hochopepa (790569) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256976)

Next thing you know, telecoms will be liable for medical malpractice if the network connections fail during remote robotic surgery. Raises an interesting point. Is it ridiculous to hold an ISP accountable for a reasonable service standard in such a case? Should telecoms be necessarily immune to lawsuit for failing to provide a reasonable level of service for a critical care applications? What if the company boasted 99.999% uptime as part of their sales pitch, but failed to deliver that level, and some of the outages cost innocent patients their lives or wellbeing? The client service agreement the doctor signed to get internet service specifically disclaims any liability for losses the doctor might suffer, so it may be up to the patient to hold the ISP accountable. Or would it be more sensical to make ISP's immune to such liability altogether?

Time to start coding again... (1)

KennyP (724304) | more than 9 years ago | (#11256987)

That way when I go to the hospital and need drugs, I'll get 'em!!!

Kenny P.
Visualize Whirled P.'s

At least don't have these robots perform surgery (1)

Man in Spandex (775950) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257007)

The Pusher and Shover robots [jonathonrobinson.com] must not do what they do best in a hospital! Unless of course the remedy is to shove bread down somebody's throat.

Paging Doctor FUD... (2, Informative)

Shoten (260439) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257019)

Next thing you know, telecoms will be liable for medical malpractice if the network connections fail during remote robotic surgery.

Actually, no. Medical malpractice isn't even remotely like what a telecom would be liable for, no matter how badly they screwed up, unless they were actually practicing medicine. What they could be liable for in the above-stated situation is negligence, and frankly I don't have a problem with that. There's nothing exotic about high availablility networking these days.

This scenario also fails to take into account the fact that the link failing wouldn't be the end of the world. It's not like they just wheel the patient into the operating room and leave them there so the robot can go at it, and it's not like the robot will start wildly flailing about with scalpels and other sharp instruments just because it's no longer being told what to do. And lest we forget, the patient whose robot-surgeon has just stopped working is still all set up in an operating room, on an IV with people monitoring their vitals, in the midst of a well-equipped hospital. Not the end of the world at all.

Re:Paging Doctor FUD... (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257282)

A broken connection would be similar to a surgeon with the shits.
It happens. Your right, its not the end of the world.

but because its robots, and because its technology, the infrastructure will take the fall. Just look at the excuses in the counter strike world.
"Poor larry with his 17 bullet wounds through every major organ would be alive today if it wasn't for the high lag."

Re:Paging Doctor FUD... (1)

Shoten (260439) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257653)

You're kidding, right? A guy on CS who blames lag for getting shot up as a legal precedent in a medical malpractice case? Jeez man, even Judge Judy wouldn't go that far!

Re:Paging Doctor FUD... (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257895)

No of course I wouldn't use CS as a precident.
I was merely pointing out the way technology is blamed.
The person responsible for setting up a remote reobotic surgeon had better use connection models that don't depend upon insecure/unstable pathways, or HE will be the only one purely to blame for any cockups.

how long until... (2, Interesting)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257020)

the rx robot develops a morphine habit and starts skimming off shots of pain killers to feed its own habit?

but seriously, is our nation's medical staff so incompetent/overworked that they can't even load a syringe properly? if so, removing this particular responsibility from their job will only give them more chances to cause potentially fatal blunders in other areas. i've heard so many horror stories about doctors and nurses collapsing patients' veins trying to administer IV medication that I'd almost trust myself more with a syringe than hospital staff. Maybe instead of paying for this $640k robot, they ought to invest more in better training for hospital staff.

Re:how long until... (1)

OwnedByTwoCats (124103) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257593)

Loading a syringe properly is no problem.

RTFA, and see that the pharmacy at this hospital fills 380,000 syringes per year, that's an average of over a thousand syringes per day. That will take a few staff, and coordination about what goes where, and be an incredibly boring job.

Automating repetitive jobs is a way to see that they get done reliably. And you can automate checks that the dosage is within the allowed range of mg/patient kgs.

Of course, there is still the potential that the medicine that the robot thinks it is dispensing in to the syringe isn't the same as the medicine that the robot is actually dispensing into the syringe. The person filling the robot put the right flavors into the right dispensers.

Oh, the units... (1)

dema (103780) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257024)

The robot, about the size of three refrigerators strapped together...

That sounds large, how many Burning Libraries Of Congress is that?

Robot Lawyer! (2, Funny)

The I Shing (700142) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257042)

Who better than to defend the robot surgeon than the RoboMouth 3000, the finest robot lawyer in production today? Why, the RoboMouth 3000 can file motions 63.7 times faster than the fastest human lawyer, and can should "Objection!" at 135db before opposing counsel finishes the offending remark!

I don't know why the scientists keep building them (3, Funny)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257078)

This is a deliberate setup.

They eat old people's medicine for fuel. And when they grab you in their metal claws, you can't escape because they're made of metal.

Depression (2, Funny)

the_twisted_pair (741815) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257080)

The electron ram stabbed out another searing blaze of light and took
out the appendix.

"How do you think I feel?" said Marvin bitterly.

"Just ran off and left you, did they?" the machine thundered.

"Yes," said Marvin.

"I think I'll shoot down their bloody ceiling as well!" raged the tank.

It took out the ceiling of the theatre.

"That's very impressive," murmured Marvin.

"You ain't seeing nothing yet," promised the machine, "I can take out
this floor too, no trouble!"

It took out the floor, too.

"Hell's bells!" the machine roared as it plummeted fifteen storeys and
smashed itself to bits on the ground below.

"What a depressingly stupid machine," said Marvin and trudged away.

(with apologies to Douglas...)

Sounds like a good use for robots... (1)

ion_ (176174) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257093)

Sounds like a good use for robots, as long as they don't hire the Red Robot [explodingdog.com] .

I doubt that this gets state board approval. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11257098)

The state of Ohio pharmacy board might approve this robot but I highly doubt it. The rules for Rx dispensing in Ohio are not very flexible or accomadating when it comes to technology. I doubt they would approve non-human supervised dispensing regardless of the accuracy.

Malfeasance (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257109)

If the telco sells the doctor bandwidth for telemedicine, then violates the uptime guarantees, they're liable. Maybe not for malpractice, but neither is "the robot" (really its makers, in another confused accusation). When lives are at stake, tech suppliers are liable for failures they hide to sell unreliable products.

Plenty of these already in use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11257163)

Childrens Medical Center Dallas has been using a system like this for a couple of years now. It is mainly used to pre-fill commonly needed meds like insulin, thereby reducing errors. It's kinda fascinating to watch a "machinegun ammo belt" of syringes run through it in short order. CMC-D also has a medication picker robot arm that vistors can watch through a window on the first floor by the trains.

Law & Order episode comes to mind (2, Insightful)

Mr. Cancelled (572486) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257205)

Anyone remember the episode wherein a teenage hacker hacks into a medial facility and changes their medical software so that people are given overdoses of insulin?

In the episode, the hacker was a teenager who was under the impression that the medical facility had blinded his father, and made the changes as a form of revenge.

In the real life version, I'm going to guess that we'll have people threatening to do something similar unless they're paid off.

Not that I'm against such changes. I just lost my Grandmother to a similar situation (someone gave her the wrong medicine as near as we can tell at this point), so any technology that can eliminate such errors, or help to reduce them, is welcomed by me and my family. I just think the Law & Order episode illustrates that no automated system's 100% foolproof. We still have to protect them from the script kiddies and such, but this is a huge step towards eliminating human errors, at least.

Re:Law & Order episode comes to mind (1)

TheGavster (774657) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257784)

How hard is it, seriously, to not connect your internal network of life-critical computers to the internet?

Reduce errors? (1)

sakusha (441986) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257218)

Are you serious? One coding error could affect HUNDREDS of patients. Does nobody read RISKS Digest anymore? Coding failures in medical equipment has been under continual discussion on RISKS for many years.
All you're doing here is trading one risk for another, a risk that more people are taking on faith, since everyone KNOWS that computers are infallible. Yeah right.

Dangerous hospital robots (1)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257231)

A group of German patients has filed a lawsuit against financially beleaguered Integrated Surgical Systems Inc., alleging that the Davis company' Robodoc surgical robot is defective and dangerous

Because in a little known incident one of their surgical robots went on a rampage, careening wildly down the hospital corridors wielding a variety of surgical scalpels while shouting, "YOU WANT A PIECE OF ME, MEAT SACK?!"

And why shouldn't they be held libable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11257335)

>Next thing you know, telecoms will be liable for medical malpractice if the network connections fail >during remote robotic surgery."

If the telecoms are selling these datalinks as being secure and reliable,why shouldn't they
be held accountable for them?

Sounds like you are the classic example of a Snake Oil Salesman.

You peddle something but don't want to be responsible for what you're selling...

QA (1)

jnjhoot (846341) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257391)

I had a temp job working for this company as QA tech a few years ago and I can tell you right now that I would not want to be worked on by a machine that was QA'd by a $12/hr temp. The machine was pretty amazing, what was more amazing was the bunch of incompetents that engineered it.

Fr1sT stop (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11257467)

Error checking in humans (1)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257495)

> Next thing you know, telecoms will be liable for
> medical malpractice if the network connections
> fail during remote robotic surgery

As they bloody well should be!

If they undertake to provide a *guaranteed* connection, which they should be, given that's it SURGURY, if the connection fails, the patient is going to be in serious trouble.

The problem with automation of medical work like this is that it removes a level of error checking - the human who fills in the needles or prescriptions.

Humans pick up a good idea of what's normal and what's not pretty quickly, and do a good job of routine error checking.

Robots don't, not even a bit. And software, as we all know, is not reliable.

So, you get quicker service, and it's cheaper, but you eliminate a level of error checking.

--
Toby

Rise of the machines (0, Flamebait)

AbsurdProverb (831079) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257515)

I certainly hope the Ohio medical machines perform better than the Ohio voting machines. There sure as hell better be a paper trail with this rig. I need to know who who will be recieving the malpractice subpoena.

Do you have any brains? (1)

andalay (710978) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257536)

"Next thing you know, telecoms will be liable for medical malpractice if the network connections fail during remote robotic surgery."

Buddy, if I create a product specifically to do job A, and as a corollary, it can also do B,C,D (unintended uses), the customer cannot blame me if the product fails to work for B,C,D. However, they can blame me if the product is deficient wrt doing job A.

liability .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11257537)

So how does one reconcile liability for robo-doc when robo-doc screws up becauses of a software error? Remember, in the good Ol' USA software vendors are NOT legally responsible for problems caused by their programs.

simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11257579)

Track down those people who work on so-called "open source software" and sue THEM instead.

mod U4 (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11257652)

later seen in personal rivalries CLEAN FOR THE NEXT Yes! the 4roject is in area. It is the rapid, with the work, or believe their

Checks and balances (1)

booch (4157) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257813)

I was under the impression that one of the main functions of a pharmacist is to know most of the various drugs by appearance. That's why drugs come in all different shapes and colors. So the pharmacist doesn't accidentally give you the little blue diamond pill (Viagra) when you're supposed to be getting the big yellow pill, even if the pills are in incorrectly marked containers. (I appreciate the fact that Walgreen's now puts a label on your presicription bottle describing the pill, so you can verify.) Somehow I doubt that automated systems are able to do this yet. Although with injected medicines, I'd supposed they almost all look alike (clear fluid). I'd be willing to bet that the machine has a much lower error rate, but it'd still be nice to have a visual check.

Veterans Administration is a leader in this area (1)

ewanrg (446949) | more than 9 years ago | (#11257854)

For those of you in the US, you might be pleased to know that the Veterans Administration is a leader in this area. Virtually all of the VA Medical Centers use robot automation for filling pill bottles and preparing Bar Codes - and then use those same Bar Codes on the meds and Bar Codes printed on the patients' wrist band (for inpatient delivery) to make sure that the critical 5 Rights are validated:
Right patient
Right medication
Right route
Right time
and Right dose

The facility in Houston, TX also uses robots designed to ferry prescriptions to the various floors of the medical center. Which is being studied for possible use at other facilities.

Many of the VA centers also work with national Mail Order centers that use "extreme" automation to fill tens of thousands of prescriptions daily when a Veteran or other eligible person needs a refill.

Just another case study to consider if you're looking at the use of robotics and electronic records to improve health care and patient safety.

---

More of my personal stuff here [blogspot.com]

I was once replaced by a robot at a hospital... (1)

Johnny Mozzarella (655181) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258021)

Back when I was in college I scored an awesome job working at a hospital. The job paid really good and I worked the graveyard shift so there wasn't much work.

My job was to type up and apply labels to blood, urine and stool specimens when they arrived in the labs and then send them off to the appropriate lab for processing.

There was very little activity so I practiced sleeping sitting up at a computer terminal. Things went well at first but my laziness and irresponsibility started catching up with me. Being a college student I soon discovered the joys of binge drinking. This resulted in me going to work with a hangover on several occasions. As you can imagine hangovers + regular sleep deprivation = diminished quality control.

I was there for about a year before being replaced by a machine that could scan the forms, label the specimens and send them off without yours truly.

So what did I do? I took on a new position as a pizza distribution engineer for a multinational firm named Pizza Hut. Gotta love progress.

AI (1)

ZeroReality (842977) | more than 9 years ago | (#11258059)

The Surgery machine that is mention is a simulated neural network, a learning computer of sorts. Most of the pervious mention errors were programming errors. A neural network is not programmed. It has to learn by practice and observing. A computer will not make mistake due to being tired in a several hour surgery. It even state in the article that it can be more precise. It can also learn to stop. People on the other hand can be stubborn and carry on. The reason it take longer is arm articulation is very difficult to do for a computer. People are born with this knowledge to start with.

The only draw back is the neural network has to have consistent human anatomy. The human body is very uniform for the most part.

As for the medicine dispenser, it can be simply given a set of governing rules. It can be told not to mix to specific compounds because they are lethal, or have drug interaction. Your right it is a bit of a nuisance in extreme emergency case but on a day to day consistent bases it just quicker. If it handing out pain medication and other long term treatment it just plain quicker.
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