A Look Behind the Curtain at Medical AI Development | Rob Toth Ph.D
The skills to solve impossible problems
WHO IS ROB TOTH?
On this fourth episode of BEST MEDICINE I was lucky to speak to the founder of Medical AI firm ThetaTech.AI, the creator of the KI Book Club app, and rather unique student of life, Rob Toth Ph. D.
Rob is simultaneously an expert in the business world, the AI/tech world, and in the biomedical world. It's an incredibly difficult skill set to gain and continually update. My discussion with him about these skill sets highlighted some overarching problems (perhaps "Wicked Problems") in the medical world.
The first of those problems is the communication between the disciplines. This occurs in all kinds of academia as well, not just in the medical world.
Often times, when working to develop new solutions for patients there are several kinds of specialists that need to be involved. This can create the problem of each specialist not understanding that their "specialty" is only part of a generality - (the bio-psycho-social human body).
Here's a very basic example, a therapist and a general practitioner may not speak to each other regarding the same patient in a holistic way.
Yet when a patient who has been seeing a therapist for suicidal ideation for a long time all of a sudden goes off the deep end because of an anti-biotic prescribed by the general practitioner people are left scratching their heads.
In this example, I don't care HOW infected you are, I'm not giving you an antibiotic if you're depressed or suicidal.
Why? Because the microbiome in your gut is one of the most important things to maintain for good mental health (as well as several other functions).
This kind of basic miscommunication only gets more complicated and confusing when you add high level specialists, surgeons, multiple institutions, and the always prying insurance and regulatory bodies.
Rob's problem is EVEN WORSE THAN THAT.
He has to deal with all of that as an outside with perspective while trying to develop and install new AI technologies that NONE of the aforementioned people have expertise about.
Additionally, he has to know and communicate with entities responsible for the laws, markets and big power players in various countries where his technology might be implemented.
It truly is a mess and I respect Rob's passion and work ethic for trying to make a positive dent in the issue.
One of the things that impresses me most about Rob is his skill stack. Business, technology, persuasion, and medical sciences.
It's only through mastery of these several domains that he has been able to get to where he is.
This touches upon a quote that I largely agree with from a man I respect, Tim Ferriss. He's once said "specialization is for insects." And what does that mean?
Well it means that while the market, or the institutions we work for, may think we're most efficient and valuable when we're doing the same exact thing every single day until we die - that we may actually be more valuable to people when we're good at more than one thing.
My work as a physician is massively improved by my ability to understand and work with psychology. Why?
Because if I prescribe exercise to an overweight person, I know all the ways their mind is going to trick them into not exercising. And that helps me coach and guide them through the process.
And my understanding of psychology is aided by my years of study of history, geopolitics and economics. Why?
Because I can confidently understand that a patient who comes to me as an obese person in the first place isn't inherently some lazy fat slob, or a food addict.
They were dropped into a world of advertising and skinner-boxes that even our grandparents never had to deal with.
They're being pushed from several angles to constantly consume things they don't need to be consuming.
And all of that is aided by this work I do here on the BEST MEDICINE podcast.
I can speak to experts in other fields and practice communicating with them on a higher level.
That helps me speak to my patients, provide them interesting anecdotes, and possibly even have some insight to their condition I wouldn't have had before.
You may be thinking "Okay, doc, what are we doing here? You want your pat on the back?" - and fair enough! But my point is to highlight the importance of trying new things, developing new skills and studying new subjects.
I truly believe one of the problems effecting our social health today is that nobody can understand each other.
And that experts are so hyperspecialize they often lack to context or skills to accurately diagnose problems because they're seeing a tree and missing a forest.
This has led to the so-called "death of the expert" (as the media might call it). That's a huge problem for public health.
By learning new things and bettering yourself, you are ALSO making society more "whole" again. So get to it!