Joe Marks is CTO (Wētā Digital), Unity Software, and serves as an Augmedix Board Member
The term “AI” calls forth certain sensationalism: Cylons, Star Wars, The Terminator. In many cases, Artificial Intelligence is presented as the enemy, coming for our jobs if not for our very lives. There was a great piece that ran in Forbes, and I fear due to timing, it was lost to pandemic headlines—but the paper’s technology council took popular opinions about AI to task. Turns out Artificial Technology isn’t here to replace us at work; it’s not a miracle, it’s not magic, it’s not here to change the world. Instead, I’d argue that AI will lead to Intelligence Amplification in the 21st Century. The greatest minds in our society will be elevated rather than in jeopardy of replacement. And this will play out in the context of the next great frontier in healthcare: Precision Medicine.
In healthcare, the term “standard of care” is used a lot. But what’s best for your condition on average may not be what’s best for you as an individual—with your history, your lifestyle, your personal preferences, your insurance coverage, and, crucially, your genomic profile. The basic idea behind Precision Medicine is very simple: use data about a patient to customize her treatment, sometimes radically. Per a 2016 article in the journal Nature, “Precision Medicine is powered by patient data. The health records and genetic codes of patients and healthy volunteers are vital, and help people to influence their own health care and the direction of research.” The human mind has a limited capacity for combing through large-scale, raw data. But doctors aided by an AI-powered “second brain” can properly evaluate and interpret the increasing volumes of healthcare data flying at us in this industry, allowing them to better focus on caring for patients.
As an example, we know that in the context of oncology, Precision Medicine can help to double the median survival rate of patients. Not only that, but we’ve learned that intelligent, customized, and targeted treatment plans can eliminate unnecessary procedures and reduce costs by up to 20%. This piece shares stories of actual patients who have been helped by customized therapies, which shows the impact that Precision Medicine has for real people.
With state-of-the-art AI tools, physicians will be able to use the full gamut of patient data to make more informed decisions and to realize the promise of Precision Medicine. But better diagnosis and therapy selection is only part of the story. Intelligence Amplification will give physicians the time and the confidence to focus on an aspect of medical care that only a human can provide: empathy. A doctor with a second AI brain is not only a better diagnostician, but could also be a happier, more compassionate healer.
So how is this relevant to Augmedix? We currently provide one-of-a-kind, AI-assisted medical documentation solutions for physicians, but by having access to patient data in real time, we also have the opportunity to be the “First Responder of Precision Medicine.” Imagine recommending to a physician new drugs or clinical trials that are specific to the patient that the physician is currently treating, right there in the examination room. That’s the next chapter in the Augmedix story—stay tuned!