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Of Slide Rules and Stethoscopes: AI and the Future of Doctoring

Abstract: Historically, the practice of medicine has been a physically intimate endeav­or. Physicians have used their hands to palpate and reveal the secrets hidden within the body. Smelling the breath for the ketosis of diabetes or tasting the skin for the saltiness of cystic fibrosis were among the physician’s essential prac­tices. Today, perhaps the most defining characteristic of a brilliant clinician is the ability to synthesize many im­ages—from electrocardiograms, ultrasounds, CT scans, and so forth—into a coherent picture that can guide our diagnosis and treatment. Yet this is rapidly becoming a Sisyphean task. Just as we are about to drown in a del­uge of data, AI is throwing us a life pre­server, to save not only our patients but ourselves. But where will AI take us?

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