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You schedule a doctor’s appointment and immediately your phone buzzes with a notification — you’re now eligible to save a few hundred bucks on your deductible.

It may not be a reality quite yet, but experts at UPMC Enterprises say machine learning, advanced access to patient data, and artificial intelligence could soon make your medical care a lot more personal.

“Imagine getting an alert that tells you you’re close to getting a deduction,” said Mohinder Dick, senior software architect at UPMC Enterprises. “I routinely get those kinds of updates from my cable company or Amazon. Why can’t we get the same convenience from health care?”

UPMC Enterprises engineers and analysts see a future in which artificial intelligence does away with one-size-fits-all medicine — from custom health alerts delivered to your smartphone to specialized genetic sequencing that offers pinpointed diagnosis and treatment for life-threatening conditions.

It’s the same disruptive mindset that transformed the retail, cable, and transportation industries.


What Is Machine Learning?

  • Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence that enables computers to learn and gather information without first being programmed. In other words, it allows computers to teach themselves.

  • Though just in its infancy, this technology can assist doctors in developing more effective diagnosis and treatment, preventing prescription errors, and much more.

  • In real life, you deal with machine learning every day. Things like your Facebook feed or the digital advertisements you see on your web browser are examples of machine learning.

Courtland Longest, Director of Product, Precision Medicine, at UPMC Enterprises, said doctors could someday examine a patient’s specific genome to develop customized treatment. A diagnosis may not be “colon cancer” or “lung cancer,” but a distinct combination of molecular subtypes.

“This can help tell us what drugs will work or won’t work on someone,” Longest said. “Whereas before, maybe you were given a certain drug because that’s just what everyone else was given.”

One example of machine learning in motion: The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations that significantly increase a woman’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Researchers were able to detect a connection between these mutations and cancer by studying thousands of patient records.

Now, women carrying this mutation can take measures to prevent breast cancer before it occurs. Longest and Dick said they envision machine learning someday greatly impacting cardiology, neonatal care, and even diabetes.

“Imagine us mining patient data and finding those correlations to illness,” he said. “That’s where predictive medicine is really going to take off.”

UPMC Enterprises teams work at a cross-section between medicine and technology — developing methods to make everything from routine visits to the doctor’s office to paying your insurance premium more tailored to your needs as a patient.

Longest said the Pittsburgh-based UPMC is well-positioned to take advantage of this shift in technology.

“We’re aware of and open to innovation in this area,” he said. “And we’ve got access to thousands of patients and their information—that’s really the advantage of UPMC.”

Dick and Longest will discuss how technology could impact your health care on September 22 at the Thrival Innovation + Music Festival. Most innovation sessions, including those presented by UPMC Enterprises, are free and open to the public but seating is limited, so pre-registration is recommended.


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Precision Medicine: Health Care as Unique as You


CourtlandLongest2 RasuShrestha2

When: 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Thursday, September 22

Where: Alloy 26 Auditorium. 100 South Commons, Pittsburgh. Register for the event

Recent developments in genetic sequencing could make one-size-fits-all treatment a thing of the past. Learn how researchers and doctors are moving towards individualized treatment based on a patient’s unique genetic makeup. This talk will explore the future of “precision medicine” and how Pittsburgh is uniquely positioned to become a leader in this emerging field.

Speakers: Courtland Longest, Director of Product, Precision Medicine, UPMC Enterprises; Rasu Shrestha, MD, Chief Innovation Officer, UPMC and Executive Vice President, UPMC Enterprises


Machine Learning: Should Health Care “Tay” Away?

When: 2:05 p.m. to 3:05 p.m. Thursday, September 22

Where: Alloy 26 Auditorium. 100 South Commons, Pittsburgh. Register for the event

Machine learning and artificial intelligence are poised to play an increasingly important role in medicine. This talk will demystify the concept of machine learning and discuss the various pitfalls and opportunities it presents for health care.

Speaker: Mohinder Dick, Senior Software Architect, UPMC Enterprises; Joseph Wright, Software Engineer, UPMC Enterprises

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.