How Close is Medicine to an AI doctor?

Mike Gillam, 21 April 2015

Companies have been pushing the state-of-the-art of building clinical algorithms into computer systems with impressive results.

Anvita Health instantiated over 20,000 evidence based rules from 60 industry guidelines into a system that can analyze 4.2 million lives per hour. This is far beyond the work capacity of any clinician.


1,500+ rules can be run simultaneously in less than 100 msecs. The system runs on 12 servers.

Back in 2012, Active Health performed a randomized, prospective study to test the effectiveness of the thousands of clinical rules they had built. They randomized 39,462 patients into two groups.

Nearly 1 of every 20 people were found to be on the verge of a potentially serious medical error by their doctor.

When ActiveHealth sent the alerts to patients and doctors, the result was 8.4% fewer hospitalizations. The amazing implication of their result is that if this type of system were rolled out to hospitals across the U.S., the cost savings from hospitalizations alone could pay for healthcare for all.

But how far are we away from systems actually taking over care completely?

If we look at Moore’s Law, we find that computational power has been doubling about every two years for the last 110 years.


Ray Kurzweil has noted that it is estimated that the state of the art estimate in neuroscience is that the human mind is roughly equivalent to 10^14 computations per second.

If the trend in Moore’s Law holds for just 15 more years then in 2030, $1,000 will buy enough computational power to create one thousand human minds.

The implication of this trend is that within the next 15 years, computation should have advanced enough that a fully instantiated AI doctor should be achievable.

Indeed, the X-Prize foundation is so confident in this trend that a $10 million contest is in progress to create the first “tricorder” – a device used in the home by a patient that is able to diagnose 15 different diseases as well as or better than a board-certified clinician.

What is perhaps even more remarkable is if Moore’s Law holds for another 36 years, then in the year 2050, $1,000 will buy you the computational equivalent of 7 billion human minds – an entire human race worth of computation.

The future of medicine is not just the care of the doctor for a patient who may or may not know the latest in healthcare, rather we will all be CEOs of thousands or millions of minds watching over our care.

Trends suggest that within 15 years, we will all effectively be the “CEOs” of up to thousands of minds watching over our health.


Mike Gillam, MD, FACEP 2015

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