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« End of Medicine Excerpt: Breakfast at Bucks | Main | Barron's, Business Week and Across the Board »

July 24, 2006



"A team of systems engineers from the University of Sheffield (UK) is developing an intelligent computer system which imitates a doctor's brain to make treatment decisions for intensive care patients. The system will take some of the workload from emergency medical teams by monitoring patients' vital signs and then evaluating and administering the right amounts of different drugs needed - a job usually carried out by specialist medical doctors.

The team, led by Professor Mahdi Mahfouf in the University of Sheffield's Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering, is pioneering the intelligent decision-support system which, in effect, duplicates the decision making processes of specialist medical doctors in Intensive Care Units (ITU).

The system models all the possible interactions between different drugs and patients' bodies, and then makes intelligent decisions about the best way to treat patients during heart bypass operations, and post-operatively in the ITU. This unique system can decide on the types and quantities of drugs to give to patients in a matter of seconds. This will help doctors provide effective treatment for patients, whilst allowing them to concentrate on as many other important tasks as possible.

Professor Mahdi Mahfouf of the University of Sheffield explains that it is the system's ability to learn, adapt, and make informed decisions which is unique: "This new system not only monitors and treats critical patients, but it can also learn from the experiences of medical staff, who can override the machine at any time. If overridden, the system assimilates the doctor's input and uses the new information to make decisions about similar cases in the future."




I have just read the book and absolutely loved it. The fact that I will be graduating medical school soon this information throws a wrench into my training plans. My next question is what next? Where do we go knowing this info. What are your plans andy? Are you going to start a mutual fund for biotech or get into the market with a startup. What could a 25 year old do to help change the way silicon and medicine interact for the future (and make a buck off of it aslo)?


"What is your advice to physicians on adapting to this Brave New World? How does this differ by specialty? What should they do today vs. plan for in 10, 20, 30 years? Any advice for pre-meds and medical school students?

The end game is embedding the expertise of doctors into silicon and software, much as ATMs did to tellers, or switches did to operators or electronic trading did to specialists at the NY Stock Exchange. I would rather be on the side of those affecting the change than fight the change. There will be enormous career opportunities for those that understand the changes ahead. The days of the family physician aren’t over, but will be radically different. Think of the change that took place with cardiac surgeons once stent procedures became the norm vs. bypass. Then multiply that by 1000 to cover the rest of the industry. You can ride the wave or get knocked over by it."

Brandon Bailey

Pass the Virtual Scalpel, Nurse:



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Nice, and thanks for sharing this info with us.Good Luck!


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