In our time of automation no job is safe—including doctors. In The Week Pascal Emmanuel Gobry (who has written on health care for us before) argues that technology will make doctors obsolete, but create more demand for nurses:
To understand why, the first thing you need to understand is that multiple studies have shown that software is better able to diagnose illnesses, with fewer misdiagnoses […]Then you need to look at companies like Theranos, which allow you to get a blood test cheaply and easily at Walgreens, and get more information about your health than you’d get in a typical doctor’s visit.Then look at a company like Sherpaa, whose mobile app provides you diagnoses, helps you get your prescriptions filled, refers you to specialists, and so on. Right now, Sherpaa works with doctors. But there’s no reason to think it couldn’t eventually work with software (and in the meantime, work with cheaper Indian doctors rather than morbidly expensive American doctors).
Gobry goes on to argue these developments won’t destroy the necessity of trained health care providers. Rather, he predicts a nursing boom as these technologies empower nurses to do a lot more of the work that doctors currently do, and for cheaper. Gobry sees little room for doctors in this world. Here he perhaps overstates his case: there will still be room for doctors to do some of the more complex and higher-order care (exactly the kind of medicine many of them became doctors to practice in the first place). And some of the things experts say about the ability of “big data” to take over medicine are overblown.But he is right that much basic primary care likely will shift away from doctors as providers with lower levels of training can use new technologies to care as effectively for patients as doctors can, and ultimately this will be hugely to the benefit of Americans currently poorly served by the U.S. health care system.