Computer-aided diagnostics is rapidly invading the medical field, and promising to revolutionize healthcare.
Katie Hafner writes in the New York Times about this exciting movement, and highlighting the contributions made by IBM's Watson technology:: Second Opinion, Consult a Computer?
I.B.M., on the heels of its triumph last year with Watson, the Jeopardy-playing computer, is working on Watson for Healthcare.
In some ways, Dr. Dhaliwal’s diagnostic method is similar to that of
another I.B.M. project: the Deep Blue chess program, which in 1996
trounced Garry Kasparov, the world’s best player at the time, to claim
an unambiguous victory in the computer’s relentless march into the human
Although lacking consciousness and a human’s intuition, Deep Blue had
millions of moves memorized and could analyze as many each second. Dr.
Dhaliwal does the diagnostic equivalent, though at human speed. ....
I.B.M.’s Watson for Healthcare has yet to focus directly on diagnosis.
The company is working with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to
teach Watson to interpret clinical information and, eventually, help
determine treatment. I.B.M. also recently began a collaboration with
Cleveland Clinic to broaden Watson’s analytical capabilities into the
area of medicine.
Dr. Martin Kohn, chief medical scientist for I.B.M. Research, is careful
to point out that Watson for Healthcare is intended to be “neither
omniscient nor omnipotent.” Yet, Dr. Kohn noted, most physicians set
aside five hours or less each month to read medical literature, while
Watson can analyze the equivalent of thousands of textbooks every
second. The program relies heavily on natural language processing. It
can understand the nature of a question and review large amounts of
information, such as a patient’s electronic medical record, textbooks
and journal articles, then offer a list of suggestions with a confidence
level assigned to each.
For physicians, Dr. Kohn said, one problem is what he calls “the law of availability.”
“You aren’t going to put anything on a list that you don’t think is
relevant, or didn’t know to think of,” he said. “And that could limit
your chances of getting a correct diagnosis.”