Some Americans take to the idea of robot healthcare

By Diana Manos
11:12 AM

About one third of Americans are willing to receive some of their healthcare from robots, and 98 percent said they would receive robot care if it meant lower co-pays and health insurance costs.

A survey by of 1,723 Americans, aged 18-30, found 34 percent said that they would opt for care from a remote presence virtual and independent telemedicine assistant robot (RP-VITA), if given the choice, while 5 percent of respondents claimed to be “indifferent.”


[See also: Telemedicine market to reach $2.5B by 2018.]

Those surveyed were asked how regularly they visited their doctor: 52 percent said they saw a doctor regularly; 37 percent said they saw their doctor ‘every now and again;’ and one in 10, 11 percent of respondents said they visited their doctor, “hardly ever or not at all.”

Respondents were asked whether or not they would feel more comfortable with the prospect of being treated by a remote doctor via the RP VITA robot compared to a face-to-face consultation, to which 61 percent said that they would opt for a face-to-face meeting.  

Those respondents who said that they’d prefer to be treated by traditional means in a face-to-face consultation were asked to explain their reasons why; choosing all that applied from a list of possible answers. Eighty-one percent of respondents cited that they would “prefer the human interaction” element during check-ups, while 59 percent said that they felt more comfortable “asking personal and private” health questions to a real doctor face to face, rather than to a remote doctor using the RP VITA.

In addition, 47 percent of respondents cited that they felt “uncomfortable” with the idea of their personal medical records being available online via cloud.

Respondents who had answered that they would prefer to be treated by remote doctors via the RP VITA were asked to explain their reasons why. Forty-nine percent of respondents felt robot care would be “more cost-effective”, while 41 percent cited “shorter waiting periods” as a factor. Thirty-three percent felt there would be “fewer errors” with a remote doctor via the RP-VITA, according to the study.


[See also: Robot, MD: Will machines replace doctors?.]

“With the costs of healthcare on the rise, we were intrigued by the news that some hospitals and healthcare providers were introducing robot assistants to help deal with the increase of patients and wanted to see if the American public would feel comfortable with the prospect of being treated by a remote doctor with the help of a robot,” said Mark Pearson, chairman of in an Aug. 15 press release.

“As the results show, the majority of Americans do not feel comfortable being treated by a remote doctor through a robot and even less so when it comes to their personal health records being available via cloud,” Pearson said. “What is important to mention, however, is the high percentage of Americans who would try this new method of treatment if it meant lower co-payment and insurance costs. With increasing numbers of Americans self medicating and diagnosing problems to avoid going to the doctor, it is vital to see a healthcare professional as soon as possible if there are persistent problems. Better to be safe than sorry!”