How Artificial Intelligence Could Humanize Health Care

Using artificial intelligence in health care could actually make medicine more human by giving doctors more time to interact with their patients.

The technology promises to improve health care by making it more effective and speedy by eliminating some of the mundane functions that eat up doctors’ time, said Eric Topol, founder and director of the nonprofit Scripps Research Translational Institute, at Fortune’s Brainstorm Health conference on Tuesday in San Diego. Machine learning could free doctors from having to type medical information into patient files while also helping give patients better access to their personal data.

“All that effort can then get us to what we’ve been missing for decades now, which is the true care in health care,” Topol said.

Topol’s vision is the topic of his new book, Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again. To achieve this optimistic future, he said the health care industry must aggressively adopt artificial intelligence.

Beyond humanizing health care, deep learning, a type of artificial intelligence, can also reduce human error and help doctors make better decisions, Topol said.

Radiologists falsely clear patients of disease 32% of the time, Topol said. Meanwhile, gastroenterologists regularly miss small polyps that are just as pre-cancerous as larger ones.

“We have to fess up to how bad things are now,” Topol said. “All these things can be improved by deep learning and machine vision.”

Artificial intelligence also opens the door to new discoveries, crunching massive amounts of data both from patients and medical literature that would have been too onerous for a human to review. This would allow doctors to provide more individualized care for patients such as a diet that is more likely to succeed based on a patient’s body type. It also could lead to improved wearable technology and innovations like virtual medical coaches that give patients health advice.

Combining all of these things, artificial intelligence could improve an industry burdened by doctor burnout, early retirement, and a growing feeling that enrolling in medical school is a bad idea.

“What we need is some hope,” Topol said. “It’s reassuring that we have a path, that if we work on it hard, we might get there.”

For more coverage of Fortune’s Brainstorm Health conference, click here. For news delivered daily to your inbox, subscribe to Fortune’s Brainstorm Health Daily newsletter.

Maria Dehn

Maria Dehn has held editorial management positions for numerous print and Web publications. She has more than 17 years of Information Technologies and journalism experience and has written many reports on cloud computing. You can reach her on Twitter @MariaDehn

Maria Dehn

Maria Dehn

Maria Dehn

Maria Dehn