Dr. Eric Topol: Integrating AI into medicine will 'restore the human mind'

Though it may seem counterintuitive, automating tasks and outsourcing responsibilities to algorithms and other forms of artificial intelligence will actually humanize medicine, according to Eric Topol, MD, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, Calif.

In a recent video for Big Think, Dr. Topol described how implementing digital health solutions will "restore the human mind." Using deep learning AI to analyze patient data, he said, will lead to "deep empathy," in which technology takes care of objective analysis, leaving humans to focus instead on making face-to-face connections.

"The biggest thing that we need now is the gift of time, and how else are we going to get it rather than to have this AI support?" he said. "Patients now can have algorithms generating their own data — whether it's their heart rhythm or their skin rash or their possible urinary tract infection — they can get that diagnosed now by an algorithm. That frees up, again, doctors to take care of more serious matters."

That said, this re-humanization of medicine "won't happen by accident," Dr. Topol warned. Implementing effective and efficient forms of AI will require a certain type of activism from the medical community as a whole, or else face-to-face interactions will continue to dwindle. "This is an opportunity that we just can't miss," he said.

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