This Article is From Apr 21, 2023

Blog: If And When Your Doctor Makes Way For An i-Doctor

Jan 15, 2027

As I wake up with a start, burning like a furnace, iDAS (my digital assistant) calms me down. "Listen carefully A, I'm sorry to wake you up early, but you have a fever, and you need to do a few tests," he says in a stern yet reassuringly confident voice, like he has everything under control.

I go, "Oh my god! Is it serious?"

"Going by your iHealthMonitor dashboard, and your recent travel, social and dietary patterns, that's unlikely," he comforts me. "Please wear your PCD (point-of-care diagnostic device) and order Panel A, so we can get the blood to test for the five most likely infections that could be causing this," he continues.

I grab my PCD and strap it to my left hand. "There you go," I say, as I click Panel A. In a flash, the tip of my ring finger is cleaned by an alcohol swipe and a drop of blood is sucked in by the automatic sampling gun. The device ejects another swipe and instructs me to press the sampling site for 30 seconds. As I take off the PCD after stemming the blood ooze on my fingertip, it beeps twice. The readout of my test results is ready.

"You have Virus 667 infection," announces iDAS. "Please take one anti-fever pill," he instructs me. I reach out for my i-pill box and take the tablet that has dropped into the 'out' slot. My haranguer continues: "I have e-ordered your anti-viral drug. It will be drone-delivered in 32 minutes. Take a total of two doses today, six hours apart, after meals. You will be fit to attend work in 48 hours. Now, I need answers to two questions before you can sleep again. First, considering that the estimated accuracy of the TAH (treat-at-home) system for your infection is 99.2%, do you wish to cross-check the prescription with the general physician, Dr Batra, online or in person? The next available appointments for the online and physical consults are in 2 and 25 hours respectively. Second, do you want me to leave a message on OfficeConnect to let them know you will be back at work in 2 days?"

"No to the first and yes to the second question," I blurt out deliriously and doze off again. I do little else over the next 24 hours.

The next day, I feel a lot better; well enough to reminisce about the good old days. I can't help but compare then and now. Back then, five years ago, I would have expended much brow sweat, literally and figuratively, to get over this fever. My wife would have cold-sponged my forehead for an hour to get the temperature down, taken telephonic advice from our friend Dr Satya, and asked me to pop a paracetamol for the fever. She would have then cajoled our family physician, Dr Ram, to see us at short notice and hauled me to his clinic, wading through chaotic traffic for an hour. After examining me, he would have taken blood tests. I would have continued on symptomatic treatment for two days until the test results appeared online. The tests would not have revealed any known infection. Ram would have concluded I had contracted a viral flu for which there was no specific medicine, and it would clear on its own in 4-5 days. I would be off work for a week, down by several thousand rupees spent on the consults and tests, weakened by the infection, and missing my weekend golf and an important travel commitment.

What we have now is a hyper-connected world with IoT (Internet of Things) networks between iDAS, the iHealthMonitor (a chip we all carry under the forearm skin), PCD, i-pill box, digital appointment systems of general and specialist doctors, e-pharmacy, e-tailers, and all the personal and common devices in the house among our family. All devices are powered remotely by solar panels on the outside walls of our house. All infections are diagnosed instantaneously with PCDs having DNA sensors that scan the blood sample, detect and label any bugs whose DNA is different from ours. All drugs we consume are integrated with nano-carriers that home in on the relevant bug DNA, enhancing the drug effectiveness and shortening the treatment time. Armed with 4th generation machine learning AI algorithms, iDAS is able to generate individual-specific information, forewarnings, and preferences in all spheres of human activity such as health, education, profession, music, travel, entertainment, shopping, etc. For instance, its health section considers all the internal and environmental factors influencing disease and gives personalized diagnoses.

Jan 17, 2027

As I wake up feeling 100% and resolve to enter the 'o-zone' (my virtual office at home) ahead of everyone else, iDAS comes alive again. "Your seclusion score is reaching dangerous levels, as you have not met another human outside your family for 11 days. Please choose from the menu for me to set up an external social event... " he drones away. Spot on. Living and working online, with everything material delivered to my doorstep, I suddenly realize I have been bunkered at home for far too long. In a blink, iDAS curates a personalized menu of combos of social activity types and dates that suit my and my contacts' preferences. As I scroll through the holograms of a myriad of options to pick from, I get this sudden urge to bury my head in my pillow and wake up in 2022 again!

The author of this fictional piece, Dr Arvinder Soin, Chairman and Chief Surgeon, at Medanta Liver Transplant Institute, is an innovator and medical AI (Artificial Intelligence) researcher. He is a strong proponent of a universal ethical code to ensure future AI would augment rather than fulfil physician roles.

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.