Book Review: Deep Medicine – Eric Topol

by @edent | #

A robot hand holds up an apple.

One of America’s top doctors reveals how AI will empower physicians and revolutionize patient care. Medicine has become inhuman, to disastrous effect. The doctor-patient relationship – the heart of medicine – is broken: doctors are too distracted and overwhelmed to truly connect with their patients, and medical errors and misdiagnoses abound. In Deep Medicine, leading physician Eric Topol reveals how artificial intelligence can help. AI has the potential to transform everything doctors do.

This is a curious book. I think I agree with all the examples and disagree with the conclusion.

AI can transform medicine. Agree. Most of the non-medical examples given are a little well worn, but still useful as an introduction to the field.

It misses out some of the more interesting technical details, but provides an overwhelming amount of medical information. I found myself skipping large chunks which I was simply not qualified to read.

The conclusion is that AI will let doctors spend more time with their patients. Provide more empathy and human understanding. That’s where I disagree. I long for the day I can go to a computer, plug myself in, and get a dispassionate diagnosis and treatment plan.

My preference isn’t to have a human being gently explain to me what drugs I need to take… I like doctors! But I don’t like interacting with them at their work. I don’t want to show my vulnerabilities (or my rude bits) to a stranger.

We’re not there yet – obviously. And the majority of people prefer a personal interaction with another human – again, obviously.

But for some people, a chat bot or automated process is more desirable. Much more so.

That’s where I think the conclusion is wrong. The promise of AI is that we will see less of our doctors, not more. That common ailments will be picked up before they’re a problem and complex needs won’t be subject to a tired and fallible human misunderstanding something of infinite complexity.

The book is a great clip through the current state of medical AI. True, it is a little too credulous of some companies claims, and it focuses a bit too much on the wealthy world. But it does provide a detailed look at what comes next.

You should also read my colleague Indra Joshi’s review in The Lancet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *