…combine data from three sources: a patients chart and electronic records that a doctor or hospital has, the insurance companys history of medicines and treatments, and Watsons huge library of textbooks and medical journals.IBM says the computer can then sift through it all and answer a question in moments, providing several possible diagnoses or treatments, ranked in order of the computers confidence,…
When most of us “very important doctors” read this we are immediately indignant. What poppycock no machine can take my place…hummpf.
However I imagine most of the very smart Jeopardy champions were indignant too, but that didn’t stop Watson from beating them.
The fact is the kind of mental work involved in figuring out a general knowledge question on Jeopardy and relating medical symptoms, conditions and history to develop a differential diagnosis are similar and are great ways to use computers creatively and effectively.
This frees our head from trying to remember and process endless facts and allows us to use our human processing ability to explore the nonlinear nonfactual issues; that is the emotional, personal issues and… to make decisions.
For any of this to work we first have to gather reliable health information in a digital format. Insurers and other have been doing this for years on a macro basis but the deeper more personal data about an individual the micro data is harder to come by. However as EHRs become universal, as we stop using paper and just use digital records, our personal data will be digitized and universally available.
Of course that brings up the troubling issues of privacy and security. I have no perfect solutions to these issues but we can still use these systems effectively without perfection; we must not allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good. I personally believe they can be dealt with.
The eventual result of using technology to enhance diagnosis will be a creative disruption in how medicine is taught and practiced. It will reduce costs (more effectively than government control) and increase quality.
The future is coming and it will be amazing!