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  • Kelly M. Hamilton

Machine Platform Crowd - the future of Healthcare?

Moore’s Law predicted that computing would dramatically increase in power and decrease in relative cost at an exponential pace. This increase in affordable and powerful computation has resulted in major economical, technological and societal impacts, driving pervasive breakthroughs across all industries--even health care.

Founded on the same relative dynamics of Moore’s Law, Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future written by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson analyzes the framework shaping the digitally-powered business landscape of today. In the book, the authors describe three shifts which are fundamentally disrupting industries and lives. These shifts include moving from the human mind to machines, from products to platforms and from core businesses to crowds.

As these principles establish a sense of urgency for business models to adapt to new technologies, there are significant applications for machines, platforms and crowds in health care--an industry known for lagging behind in modernization.


The first shift is moving from the human mind to machine as digital technologies continue invading the physical world. This notion suggests that we have entered into an era where machines have mastered cognitive tasks, far surpassing human expectations. With that comes the ability for machines to supercharge businesses through intelligent automation and machine learning that remove human constraints and physical limitations. For healthcare, this means being able to deliver a higher quality of care at a lower cost to a broader audience.

The following are a few applications for the future of machines in health care:

  • AI in Diagnostics: Machine learning provides the ability to test and diagnose a variety of illnesses with improved accuracy (e.g. mammograms, pathology interpretation, etc.)

  • Remote Patient Monitoring: Intelligent automation is enabling remote patient monitoring and personalized treatment via chatbots and other mobile solutions--accessible anywhere, anytime.

  • Nanobots: Robots capable of automating complex actions while being able to manipulate their environments are being used to gather and communicate information about internal organs; augment memory; surgically repair body parts; and deliver drugs to precise locations.

  • Robotic Surgery: High resolution robotic assistance can eliminate limitations like speed, complexity and precision for dangerous operations.

  • 3D Printing: 3D Printing offers a more cost-effective alternative to traditional prosthetics, as well as reconstructive surgery.


Secondly, industries are shifting from products to platforms, using mobile devices to efficiently connect people to services. Platforms provide visibility, amplification and connections. Easily scalable, platforms also reduce waste while increasing consumption--and profit. For example, companies like Uber--the largest taxi company--own no physical cabs and yet foster a marketplace where both clients and providers benefit. Applied to health care, this translates to more convenient options for access and treatment through technology like:

  • Virtual Reality: VR as a platform enables healthcare providers to plan and practice complex operations. It can also facilitate therapy for patients wanting to manage pain.

  • Gig Economy: In support of collaborative consumption, solutions like Iggbo enable healthcare companies to automate the process of procuring, dispatching, tracking, and paying their labor to perform services.

  • Augmented Reality: Putting information into eyesight as fast as possible, AR has practical applications such as helping nurses find veins more readily, or leveraging wearables like AR glasses to view patient data while interacting face-to-face with patients.


The third shift is defined as a movement from the core--centralized institutions--to the crowd, which lowers the cost of interaction while perpetuating greater experimentation and innovation. This is most clearly demonstrated in the difference in how professionals maintain and curate encyclopedias versus how participants on the internet collectively manage contributions to online repositories. Crowdsourcing, for example, is faster and more readily available than traditional data sources. In healthcare, this provides opportunities for patients and clinicians alike to contribute their individual experiences and expertise in discussions in the following ways:

  • Public Crowds: Patients can share their experiences with illnesses or conditions publicly to solicit feedback and advice from others experiencing similar illnesses.

  • Private Affinity Crowds: Affinity crowds could consist of clinical specialists within a specific area convening within a private platform to collaborate and share information.

  • Hybrid Crowds: Affinity crowds may collaborate to create content within blog-type frameworks that is shared with the public, allowing experts to control the information but expose findings to a broader audience.

  • Non-human Crowds: Crowds composed of robots or other AI are able to teach each other, and in turn share that information with other forms of AI, exponentially increasing the number of robots who can do or understand certain tasks.

Within all of these shifts--mind and machine; product and platform; core and crowd--there is no perfect balance. However, the rapidly changing world is shifting towards the latter in each. Applying this framework to the healthcare industry will enable providers and companies alike to improve the accessibility, quality and cost of health care that patients today expect. As more patients assume responsibility for their own health, hospitals, pharmacies, insurance companies and medical providers must chose to quickly adopt disruptive technology or face falling behind.

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