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Future Of Healthcare – Humans And Machines Working Together

Book Title: The Future of Healthcare: Humans and Machines Partnering for Better Outcomes 2018Book cover

Emmanuel Fombu


Author: Emmanuel Fombu, MD, MBA     



Disclaimer: I received a paperback copy of this non-fiction book from the Editor in exchange for an honest review.

I have an interest in the subject matter, both on a personal level and via my menopause and midlife health blogs. In my blogs, I actively encourage women to take responsibility for their own health and well-being, so this subject fascinates me.

Dr Fombu has written this 293-page book from his perspective as a physician who has worked within the health care system in the USA. His medical work gave him a broad perspective that reflects in his writing. The book is, therefore, easier to read and the subject matter is understandable.

He uses relevant examples, particularly in terms of the benefits of technology applied across the sector.


First of all the book looks at current systems.  He doesn’t shy away from identifying shortfalls in systems, costs and efficiencies. He discusses artificial intelligence, machine learning, and how the future can be shaped by humans and machines working together. Because the future will not be without challenges he doesn’t hide away from these discussions and scenarios. Instead, Dr Fombu looks at innovation as a means of keeping spiralling costs and inefficiencies under control.

He describes the NHS in the UK as “being the world’s fifth largest employer” hurriedly building a healthcare infrastructure, that will cater for an increasing population. But even more, so he crucially points out that old ways of doing things are not sustainable.

Costs are spiralling out of control, with an increase in patient volume and the reliance on drugs as the “solution” to medical need. These are leading on to new processes and technology implementation. Similarly, Dr Fambou points out we already have AI assisting doctors and machines that provide pinpoint accuracy during surgery. In addition, the accuracy of diagnosis using scans such as MRI has increased.Medical Scan

Globally, Dr Fombu indicates that we have reached a pivotal ‘tipping’ point. For the first time, people are happier to share their medical data and speak openly about their medical history. As a result, technology is playing a major part in capturing and storing data securely.medical data


Dr Fombu discusses the current situations and context-specific areas in chapters on:

  • Patients
  • Big Pharma
  • Physicians
  • Hospitals
  • Insurers
  • Governments
  • Humans and Machines

What Does Future Of Healthcare Look Like?

Human and machine

My focus is mostly on Chapter 14, this being my favourite chapter. It looks at the relationship between humans and machines, with the world of work looking very different within the next twenty years.  It is estimated that 54% of European jobs will be at a high risk of being taken over by machines.

So, the machine revolution is happening – just like the industrial revolution happened. Machines won’t take over from humans in the near future, however. The expectation is that they will assist and continue to help. Furthermore, these partnerships will be vitally important to the future of healthcare (provided that humans accept the role of machines).

There’s an interesting definition of three types of Artificial Intelligence (Pg 90).

  • Firstly, Basic A.I. simulates intelligence without replicating the complex processes of our brains.
  • Secondly, General A.I. is the level where software begins to ‘think’ like us.
  • Finally, Superintelligent A.I. is a hypothetical stage where it is more intelligent than us.

Fascinating information! Further hypotheses regarding their place in healthcare systems follow on.

Machine learning already takes place in the NHS at Moorfields Eye Hospital (Chapter 7). Used in the fight against macular degeneration, machines do tasks in seconds that it would take doctors hours to complete. Certainly, the implications of this are huge for patients, due to nationally shared expertise leading to treatment that is more effective.


Medical researchers and doctors say that the huge amount of health data on our smartphones could be put to good use in medical studies. This makes total sense to me as most of us are glued to our phones for a couple of hours a day generally. But think about how long we are on them compared to how long a scheduled doctor’s appointment lasts. It makes sense, therefore, that your stored health details are put to better use.

There are apps that track how far you walk or run, remind you to exercise and give daily motivation for diet and health. There is huge potential here for all your collected data to be explored (and exploited) in terms of your own health and for the medical profession generally.

Medical provision hasn’t cottoned on to this properly yet, so data sat on your FitBit or Apple watch is there – but not yet analysed effectively. A medical course of action could be agreed (with monitoring) using this information for better patient outcomes and prevention strategies. This would be a “value-based healthcare model that revolves around keeping the patient healthy and out of the hospital” (Page 60)

Virtual Reality

Another topic discussed in detail is the use of virtual reality. This generates “realistic images, sounds and other sensations that simulate a user’s physical presence and immerse them in a virtual or imaginary environment.” There has already been work on this technology in terms of a potential alternative to painkillers. It seems like as this technology improves, the painkilling effect will become more engaging and believable. Amazing!

My Favourite Quotes:

“the true potential of the internet of things is yet to be fully realised. We’ll have access to more data than ever before” and “we’ll be able to use that information to improve our lives”. (pgs 73, 74)

“Machine learning, natural language processing and big data are there to make our lives easier, and the future of healthcare will rely heavily on these technologies.” (Page 229)

“All of the ‘tech’ in the world won’t take away the fact that healthcare is fundamentally human, We need to remember that and ensure that no matter how excited we get with new technologies, we always put people and patients first”. (Page 242)

My Conclusions:

Dr Fombu writes in an interesting and engaging manner, consequently, it is suitable for audiences both within (and outside of) the healthcare sector.  He quotes a useful level of data that above all is used to emphasise, and expand on, the points he makes.

So, change has, and is, coming and is inevitable for the future of healthcare. Technology, AI and innovation are paramount to the development of healthcare systems as we move forward.

I’d definitely recommend this book, it contains huge food for thought! If you want to read more, you can buy the book at Amazon here:

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