Head of Product
Tim McLerran is a physician entrepreneur-turned AI software developer with a mission to bring together human and machine intelligence in day-to-day clinical practice.
Why I implement AI in healthcare
The book Prediction Machines describes the “AI moment”, when a person realizes that AI will fundamentally alter their world. My AI moment occurred in 2015 as I stared at a spreadsheet of the relative abundance of thousands of molecules measured in blood from thousands of people. I realized that the rich hierarchy of patterns that exist in biological systems was playing out in front of me. Health and disease were there, written clearly in a million little numbers on my screen, but my human mind was completely inadequate to see the forest for the trees.
Down the hall, another laboratory was sequencing the gut microbiome. As I had just finished robotically automating all the steps necessary to perform metabolomics on a population scale, I knew the other ‘omics technologies would inevitably do the same. Soon, billions of physiologically meaningful data points from several orthogonal sources could come pouring into each patient’s chart, and the only way to make sense of all of these data in the context of all other relevant data would be to partner human with machine intelligence.
My AI moment was at once exciting and unsettling; exciting for its potential to improve health and well-being, and unsettling because I had already spent a year in medical school and was on track to enter a profession which I could now see was ripe for disruption. I started learning python and read book after book on AI; On Intelligence by Hawkins, How to Create a Mind by Kurzweil, Deep Medicine by Topol, and others. Programming became a guilty pleasure, something I would do when I could justify the time away from board exam studies.
As I progressed through medical school and intern year of residency, I grew increasingly convinced that over the next 10-20 years we will develop the ability to measure the determinants of health and disease with sufficient precision to allow very strong prediction by intelligent algorithms. This belief was bolstered by the AI revolution unfolding in many industries. While self-driving cars hit the streets and drones dropped bombs, I trudged through a massive amount of the kind of work that AI is supposed to be best at : dull, dirty, and dangerous. And that was before COVID-19 hit.
As I scrolled through labs and typed admission notes at 2 am during the first wave of the pandemic, I couldn't help but wonder, "why isn't AI helping here? There's so much it could do."
In July of 2020, I set out on a mission to bring human and machine intelligence together for practicing clinicians in healthcare.
I went looking for a mentor in this space, and the first person who came up when I searched Google for "artificial intelligence in medicine" was Anthony Chang. He is an acknowledged leader in the field, so I was surprised when he happily spent an hour on the phone, giving me what amounted to a road map to find my way. His book Intelligence Based Medicine was an incredible introduction to the field, and the AI-Med conferences he hosted brought together the best minds in this space.
At one such conference, I met Brendan Dunphy, a veteran in the business of bringing emerging technologies to market. Brendan and I discussed the challenges and opportunities of implementing artificial intelligence in healthcare, and we identified some critical pieces of the AI tech stack which are used in other fields but are effectively non-existent in healthcare, such as graph databases. We experimented with these, and discovered that by building on the right foundation, we could leverage medical data and knowledge networks to build AI products that would have huge impact in clinical care, like real-time recommendation systems.
We showed Anthony Chang what we had been building, and the three of us recognized that the timing was perfect to start a company to put these technologies to work in day-to-day clinical practice. Thus, Medical Intelligence One was born.
Building this company and our products has been an incredible journey so far, and every day I wake up excited to get back to it. I really believe that what we're doing here at Medical Intelligence One will give the world a shot at a much happier future for clinicians and patients.