Doctor droids, but human pilots?

Jones points out another oddity: “Why would Lucas have machines caring for patients yet retain human beings in the pilot seats of military spacecraft?” he asks. “Machines would offer reaction times and targeting far superior to any person.” Today we are moving in this direction through the use of drones in warfare, though humans remain in control. Star Wars defenders might respond that it is not technology but trust in the Force that ultimately determines the outcome of battles. “Yet,” Jones asks, “why wouldn’t the Force play an equally important role in caring for seriously injured and dying patients?”

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Droids won’t be replacing doctors any time soon, but that doesn’t mean that technology doesn’t have a place in medicine. Jones points out that there plenty of technological advances that could help doctors (the human kind) improve patient care.

One such advance is a wearable device that can track a variety of patient health data remotely. “Instead of coming in to the office,” Jones says, “a patient with advanced lung disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will be able to stay at home while a doctor reviews data on physical activity, respiratory function and sleep quality. Such information will be very useful in designing more personalized care plans and intervening sooner when problems develop to prevent the need for hospitalization.”

Another innovation Jones touts is a camera and computer software package that can monitor a patient’s vital signs from across a room, without ever touching them. “Patients who arrive in the emergency room will be assessed right away for heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, and blood oxygen saturation. Such technology will ensure that very sick patients get immediate care, and the advantages during a flu pandemic or Ebola outbreak go without saying.”

A third is a combination of a wearable brain-wave detecting device and computer software that will enable patients to control the cursor of a computer not using their hands or even eye movements but directly with their brains. “Simply by thinking of it,” Jones says, “even patients with paralyzing conditions such as spinal cord injuries or ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) will be able to control a wheelchair or turn the temperature in a room up or down.”