March 10, 2019

Our response to erroneous reports of ‘robot’ doctor

The erroneous story over the past 24 hours about a “robot diagnosis” is disheartening. Much of what’s being reported is actually wrong.

Statement From Michelle Gaskill-Hames, RN, Senior Vice President and Area Manager, Kaiser Permanente Greater Southern Alameda County.

We are deeply sorry for falling short of the Quintana family’s expectations. We offer our sincere condolences for the loss of their beloved family member and friend. We also take their concerns very seriously and have reached out to the Quintana family to address them.

Our patients are our top priority at Kaiser Permanente, which is why the story being reported over the past 24 hours about a “robot diagnosis” is heartbreaking and shocking.

Unfortunately, very little of what’s being reported is accurate.

It is important to understand that we do not have robots that have medical discussions with patients or deliver terminal diagnoses. The evening video conversation was a follow-up to earlier in-person physician visits and was not used in the delivery of the initial diagnosis.

That said, we will use this as an opportunity to review how to improve patient experiences with video capabilities.

We discussed the diagnosis and prognosis of the case in person with the Quintana family and their loved one since he entered our hospital and our physicians and nurses were in regular, in-person communication with the patient and family about his condition. In order to provide an urgent evening consultation with a specialist physician, a live conversation was conducted using a video connection. A nurse was in the room to accompany the video conversation, as is our standard practice. We regret that our use of a video call did not meet the Quintana family’s expectations of a compassionate experience.

When we provide these video conversations, they are always with a nurse or other physician in the room with the patient and family. Use of secure video conversations allows a small hospital to make additional specialists available ‪24/7 for patient consultation, enhancing the care provided and bringing additional consultative expertise to the bedside.

At Kaiser Permanente, our goal will always be to improve care and service. And, like every health care provider, we are continuously learning how best to integrate technology into patient interactions — and we will continue to do so for the benefit of our patients.