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The fourth industrial revolution

In the past, I’ve written a good deal about my love of reading. Books provide me with two of the things I’ve come to cherish: a chance to slow down, while keeping my mind open to new opportunities for learning.

Lately, my shelves have mostly been lined with texts that focus on what’s been called “the fourth industrial revolution”—in other words, digital health, artificial intelligence and the internet of things. What stands out is one particular book that examines this latest revolution from the perspective of health care, Eric Topol’s Deep Medicine.

Topol’s belief that “medicine has become inhuman, to disastrous effect[s]” is not just thought-provoking, but accurate. The sad fact is that physicians simply don’t have the luxury they used to enjoy in sitting with patients for a long stretch and truly connecting with them. Instead, they’re increasingly torn, as they try to maintain their attentiveness to their patients, while coping with their ever-growing need to tend to administrative duties.

But what if technology could help alleviate the pressure and tip the balance back toward person-to-person contact? Topol argues that artificial intelligence has the potential to relieve doctors of many of their routine (and sometimes mind-numbing) tasks, such as note-taking. This would free them up to tackle the more complex challenges they were trained to do.
With the drudgery taken care of by digital “servants”, physicians and patients will have a chance to re-create one of the more desirable aspects of a bygone era in medicine: a space where the doctor and patient can listen to and hear one another.

In such an environment, the odds of true healing are bound to be greater. I wouldn’t be surprised if, just a year or two from now, a new wave of research tackled this very subject. Now, that’s a book I’d be eager to sit back and explore.

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