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AI IBM Medicine Supercomputing

IBM's Watson To Help Diagnose, Treat Cancer 150

Posted by Soulskill
from the fighting-sickness-with-robots dept.
Lucas123 writes "IBM's Jeopardy-playing supercomputer, Watson, will be turning its data compiling engine toward helping oncologists diagnose and treat cancer. According to IBM, the computer is being assembled in the Richmond, Va. data center of WellPoint, the country's largest Blue Cross, Blue Shield-based healthcare company. Physicians will be able to input a patient's symptoms and Watson will use data from a patient's electronic health record, insurance claims data, and worldwide clinical research to come up with both a diagnosis and treatment based on evidence-based medicine. 'If you think about the power of [combining] all our information along with all that comparative research and medical knowledge... that's what really creates this game changing capability for healthcare,' said Lori Beer, executive vice president of Enterprise Business Services at WellPoint."
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IBM's Watson To Help Diagnose, Treat Cancer

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  • "What is Lupus?"

  • 100K patients diagnosed as terminal. Thanks for playing.

    In all seriousness though the data collection for this would call for some crazy data crunching which this system seems to do well.
  • by idontgno (624372) on Monday September 12, 2011 @05:56PM (#37381320) Journal

    We already have insurance case evaluators overriding a practitioner's medical judgments. Now, we'll have evaluators PLUS a very expensive rules engine* versus the overworked GP.

    *And what, prithee, does the price of the system have to do with its credibility? Everything. If you sink a lot of money into something like this, you've already bet your money on whether it's right or not. No one is installing a Watson rig with an expensive data warehouse just for lulz, and no one's going to be able to casually second-guess this thing without massive evidence. It's going to be right all the time or BC-BS will look like a dope for spending so much.

    Beside, it won Jeopardy! It must be right!

    • by robot256 (1635039) on Monday September 12, 2011 @06:13PM (#37381474)

      The nice thing is that its result is not just spat out of a black box--it gives a pretty accurate confidence measure, and actually links back to the articles that led it to each conclusion. That means the doctor can go and read them for himself. He may find articles he never would have found otherwise, and become a better doctor for it. It also gives the basis upon which to challenge the computer in court, if it comes to that ("Toronto", anyone?). I think the hope of WellPoint is that it will allow doctors to learn from research faster and more efficiently, so that young doctors learn faster and old doctors stay current. The more the doctors on the front lines of medicine know, the better patient outcomes will be. Nobody is saying the computer is going to ever replace the doctors altogether.

      Then the legal department will come and screw everything up, of course, but we can wait a little while before that happens.

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Monday September 12, 2011 @06:32PM (#37381598) Homepage

        The nice thing is that its result is not just spat out of a black box--it gives a pretty accurate confidence measure, and actually links back to the articles that led it to each conclusion.

        A question and a comment.

        First, how do you know this? It really didn't say how it is going to get an 'accurate confidence measure'? Which leads me to my comment - the completely untested assumption here is that the answer lies in the current literature [nih.gov], if only you could wade through it. That isn't at all clear to me. Much of the 'best' data comes from double blinded placebo controlled studies. The big problem here is that the patients are typically carefully selected for having as few other co morbidities as possible. That's very useful from a research situation but makes the data poorly generalizable to the average patient on the street who has no particular interest in being 'simple' (or rational or compliant). The rest of the medical literature is basically crap. "Expert" opinion which turns out to be wrong as often as not. Observational studies which almost always inflate the efficacy of treatments and can only provide correlation. Much of medicine has really never been studied carefully at all.

        Next, if they're using any insurance company's billing data, well you might just as well consult rabbit entrails. In the US the vast majority of that data is entered in an obfuscated, outdated and thoroughly whimsical system called ICD-9 (International Classification of Diseases, version 9). The REST of the world with the possible exception of North Korea is on 10 - a system that is much more useful. But even using one of the more sophisticated medical database systems is still unlikely to give you the detail you need to actually treat someone.

        Of course, there is little useful information on how this will work - whether the doc will consult this wonderful oracle or if the insurance company will send you a form letter six months after the patient died saying you should have done something different. If they are going to go through with this,, I hope to hell they are going to carefully monitor it's success (or lack thereof) over time. And do that honestly. My money is that it won't help all that much.

      • by Spikeles (972972)
        More likely, it'll become what Google already has. [harvard.edu] An external memory device [latimes.com].

        The results of four studies suggest that when faced with difficult questions, people are primed to think about computers and that when people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it.

        Why remember that X is caused by Y when you can just input Y into a computer and it gives X?

        • by tepples (727027)

          Why remember that X is caused by Y when you can just input Y into a computer and it gives X?

          Disaster recovery in case of EMP or in case of The Change [tvtropes.org].

        • by c0lo (1497653)

          Why remember that X is caused by Y when you can just input Y into a computer and it gives X?

          I'm afraid cancer may be caused by many things... in there turn, these many things may or may not always result in cancer.

      • by nbauman (624611)

        Do you know any oncologists?

        I've gone to lectures, and talked to a lot of them. I've heard that there are dumb oncologists, but I've never met one.

        Oncologists are pretty smart. They *already* know the medical literature cold. There aren't that many high-quality clinical studies on a major cancer -- say, breast cancer -- and an oncologist who treats breast cancer will know them all. They may not have *read* them all, because they've heard the results of the studies when they were first reported at medical me

      • The nice thing is that its result is not just spat out of a black box--it gives a pretty accurate confidence measure, and actually links back to the articles that led it to each conclusion.

        I'm trying to imagine the scenarios in which a doctor would be forced to resort to using a sophisticated computer to diagnose a patient with cancer, but if he doesn't have the time to refer to a good oncologist, what makes you think the doctor has the time, or is even qualified to understand, the articles in question, so that by referring to them personally the doctor could confirm the diagnosis? Look, I KNOW my family practitioner doesn't have the specialized training to catch cancer. I KNOW that reading

    • by tgd (2822)

      Here's a joke for you:

      What do they call the person who graduates last from Medical School?

      Doctor.

      As a patient, I'd like to know what sources my provider has consulted and based a diagnosis on. I don't want my health dependant on which PA or GP I get when I go to the doctors office or to the hospital. Doctors may catch the obvious things, but when its not obvious, your life literally depends on who you happen to get lucky enough to see. That's a pretty sad state of affairs, and its great if this helps.

      • > your life literally depends on who you happen to get lucky enough to see.

        This is why for anything serious, you are very careful about who you see. It's really a combination of luck and networking to reliable people. The hardest part (for a slashdotter) is finding one person who is good enough and knows enough that they will send you to what is probably the right place. Someone can have a wonderful reputation and be a bad surgeon, and sorting wheat from chaff is really, really hard, especially when the medical community is tight-lipped to begin with, and it's not like they pro

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          That's nice if you're planning a procedure where you can schedule a date.

          If you are in the hospital because you just had a stroke or heart attack then it isn't like you can take a month to work your network.

          And most likely for the average person their network isn't worth much as you suggest. I get better review data when making a purchase decision on amazon.com.

          Sure, evidence based medicine has its limitations, but what are you going to replace it with? "Hi, Medicare, this is Dr. Smith, and yes, I think t

          • There are several interrelated issues here.

            First, yes, if it's a stroke or a heart attack and you don't already have a contact that can get you information about who to see very quickly, then it's luck of the draw. A network may still be useful for further work, if you need it.

            And yes, the average person doesn't have the right contacts to know who they should be seeing, and doesn't know how to ask the right questions. If they did, there would be a lot more competition to be a good doctor, and also attempt

      • by rjstanford (69735) on Monday September 12, 2011 @09:28PM (#37382532) Homepage Journal

        Here's a joke for you:

        What do they call the person who graduates last from Medical School?

        Doctor.

        As a patient, I'd like to know what sources my provider has consulted and based a diagnosis on. I don't want my health dependant on which PA or GP I get when I go to the doctors office or to the hospital. Doctors may catch the obvious things, but when its not obvious, your life literally depends on who you happen to get lucky enough to see. That's a pretty sad state of affairs, and its great if this helps.

        Here's some truth for you. There are ~310 million people in the US alone. There is one "best oncologist." Most of the people are never going to see him or her.

        The good news, and some more truth, is that most of the people - even those with cancer - don't need to.

        The bad news is that many of them will think that they do and bitch and moan when they don't.

        • by Vellmont (569020)

          The problem isn't not being able to see "the best guy". The problem is avoiding seeing the bottom 20-30 percent or so. Think about whatever profession you're in. Now think about the worst colleagues you've had (moron, headstrong, wrong most of the time, etc). You think the distribution is THAT much different in medicine?

          • by Rich0 (548339)

            Yup, and now think about the kinds of people getting ahead at work. Is it because they really write better code or offer better support or whatever than the next guy, or are they better at schmoozing? So, do you think that the doctor that has some big long title next to his name is likely to be different.

            I've met some good doctors and some bad doctors in my life. You just work with what you have sometime. If you need to see 5 doctors quarterly chances are you can't really manage with each of them being

        • by tgd (2822)

          The good news, and some more truth, is that most of the people - even those with cancer - don't need to

          The people dying of cancer right now probably disagree with you.

      • by Vellmont (569020)


        Doctors may catch the obvious things, but when its not obvious, your life literally depends on who you happen to get lucky enough to see.

        Choosing a doctor isn't luck. Do your research, get recommendations, and it helps a lot to not live in podunck. Then you have to do your OWN research if you get sick. Relying on the magic doctor to give you the right answer is a fools game. Any good GP will refer you to a specialist if you need it. Don't be afraid to ask for one yourself.

        There's many ways to get good

    • by Trepidity (597) <.delirium-slashdot. .at. .hackish.org.> on Monday September 12, 2011 @06:30PM (#37381580)

      Computers are actually better at certain kinds of diagnosis than the overworked GP, though, and have been for years. In particular, computers are very good at conditional probability, and at combining information from thousands of study results that a typical GP doesn't have time to keep up with. The MYCIN [wikipedia.org] AI system beat most doctors in diagnosing blood infections over 30 years ago, but wasn't adopted in actual medical practice mainly for political reasons.

    • think but mixing doctor stuff can kill.

      it's one thing to think Toronto in is in USA but think that one type of diagnoses is part of the right group but is not can end in death.

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        Well, this is why a doctor is still on the hook to interpret the results.

        Most doctors will probably just ignore it. In my experience the average doctor has the average treatment they're comfortable with when a patient comes in with a given set of circumstances. They get paid the same for the visit whether it takes 5 minutes or 50 minutes, and 99.999% of the time ruling out a rare ribosome disorder is time wasted. For 99.999% of the population that works out just fine, but if you happen to have a rare rib

    • Well hopefully... this results in a world where we don't need to work the GP.

      The reality is that your average doctor really doesn't do anything that complicated that a computer can't match on average. They take symptoms, order tests...

      What you really need to do is make sure it doesn't go nuts. I'm sure they could write in some safe guards and other health professionals like nurses could do a sanity check.

      It's about time we recognize that 'quality' is not the only metric in healthcare. Availability, cost.

  • I can see this being used as evidence for not paying for treatments/surgeries etc.
    • That brings up a good point though. If the computer says it's a bad idea, and backs that up with evidence, might it not actually be a bad idea? The whole point of evidence-based medicine is to improve outcomes (and save money) by reducing late diagnosis, misdiagnosis and unnecessary procedures. If, in fact, the computer is right most of the time and you don't actually need that procedure, then it will save money. There will always be errors, whether it's the fault of a doctor or the computer; the goal i

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        If the computer says it's a bad idea, and backs that up with evidence, might it not actually be a bad idea?

        I can't answer that, Dave.

      • That brings up a good point though. If the computer says it's a bad idea, and backs that up with evidence, might it not actually be a bad idea?

        Possibly.

        On the other hand, I'm alive because my oncologist tried something that had a very good chance of killing me, since I'd reached the point where all the evidence said that I was untreatable.

        It worked, she got to present the paper at some medical conference, and now (hopefully) other people who have my little problem (or related little problems) have a bette

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          There is always room for experimental medicine, and there should always be a budget for doing it. However, it is extremely wasteful to treat every patient encounter as a clinical trial.

          Should insurers pay for a procedure that costs $100k, and has a 10% chance of extending life by a year? How about one that costs $1M but has a 2% chance of extending life 20 years (and a 98% chance of death in two months)? You'll always find somebody who had it done and lived, and they'll say the surgeon saved their life (

          • I'd probably devise a system where people can at least name that value themselves and pay a premium accordingly.

            Free Market healthcare already does that, so why bother creating a new one?

            There is always room for experimental medicine

            Not if insurance companies (or the Federal government) are paying for them, there's not. Or do you really believe that Medicare pays for experimental treatments?

    • "I can see this being used as evidence for not paying for treatments/surgeries etc."

      Or a way to side-step responsibility for medical decisions in the context of malpractice suits. Or perhaps an "expert" witness...

      "Ladies and Gentlemen, I will now prove, with the help of Dr. Watson, that Ms. Swinebottom was killed at the hands of..."
      "Excuse me. DOCTOR Watson? This box has a degree in medicine?"
      "Well, no. But it does have available to it the entire store of medical literature, and can make billions of calcula

  • Having had to deal with the medical world for the last few years with doctors trying to determine what is wrong with my wife (still no definitive answers yet), and have them treat her, I am shocked that something like this hasn't been done before.

    Even a simple db that cross references diseases to symptoms / blood work results (and other test results) doesn't seem to exist. It's 2011, you'd think that doctors could order up a set of tests based on their initial thoughts, input the results to a program, and

    • by PRMan (959735)

      Consciously or subconsciously, most doctors make more money by treating symptoms repeatedly than by curing people. All-in-one systems like Kaiser would be the exception, since they own the hospitals, insurance plan and everything, they are incentivized to actually cure you so you stop costing them so much money!!!

      This is a big problem in medical and dental insurance in this country.

    • by sconeu (64226)

      I sympathize with you, understress. My wife and I went through 18 months of hell, with tons of red herrings, including a dismissal -- "Oh, you're just suffering from empty nest. It's psychosomatic." -- before she was diagnosed with ALS.

      The problem with rare diseases is the old saying, "When you hear hoofbeats, look for horses, not zebras."

    • Even a simple db that cross references diseases to symptoms / blood work results (and other test results) doesn't seem to exist.

      They do exist. See the Problem / Knowledge Coupler [pkc.com].

      you'd think that doctors could order up a set of tests based on their initial thoughts, input the results to a program, and have the program guide them with possibilities to try and narrow down the search of what may be wrong.

      That assumes that we have enough data to link a test or a series of tests / symptoms / findings to a disease. That also assumes that we know the disease the patient has. Neither assumption is true. We've really just cleaned off the low hanging fruit in this respect.

      IF Watson has enough data programmed into it then it might be the kind of system that could answer your question. However, it seems to be attempting the same thing that PKC dose and that sys

      • by Thing 1 (178996)

        There is just a lot of stuff about the human body that we don't know....

        Which leads me to wonder: will Watson begin to recommend specific Jin Shin Jyutsu exercises to self-heal parts of the body, or a regimen of EFT to resolve the trauma of a loved one dying?

        • by Thing 1 (178996)
          Re-reading my post, and my signature: I wonder if Watson will be voted to death. Or, in other words, if the medical-industrial complex will proactively eliminate any threats to their revenue.
    • by grmoc (57943)

      FYI, it has been done before. The computer did better than the GPs (and this was decades ago), however, noone was wanting to be the liable party.. and so, it never saw real use outside the study.

      Score some more "benefit" for lawyers and the people who litigate.

    • by jd (1658)

      Identification keys are commonplace in most fields. I wouldn't personally use something like Watson for that, though. I also agree that there are some amazing gaps in the medical databases that are around and that medicine should be more about the underlying mechanisms and less about the symptoms. (If you use thick enough paint, you can hide the cracks in a house that's subsiding. It won't stop the house collapsing, though.) The pressure for evidence-based medicine might help, but again that depends on what

    • by compro01 (777531)

      It should be a simple path of elimination

      It's simple in the same way weather simulations are simple. It's simple by itself, but the problem grows exponentially as you expand it beyond trivial cases.

      Basically, they're at the lower end of the class of intractable problems. In principle, they're solvable if you can just throw enough computing power at them. We're just getting to the point where that amount of power is obtainable.

    • An anecdote from Dr. James C. Cain (former head of section, gastroenterology and internal medicine at Mayo), from about 1981:

      A patient came to May Clinic with vague symptoms. One histologist remarked "This guy has weird blood. I've seen it before, but can't remember where." Several days later the histologist came back with the book where he had seen that "weird blood." Leprosy. Mayo didn't get many lepers.

      "We were just lucky," said Dr. Cain, "that the histologist remembered the pattern. But imagine what w

    • by pclminion (145572)
      It's not like House. Diseases have many facets which may or may not express themselves. Thus it isn't a process of elimination, it is a problem of expectation maximization. This is of course another sort of problem that computers are quite good at solving. It just isn't generally available. And if it were, mystics and paranoiacs would decry it and demonize it. hope things work out for you.
      • by Rich0 (548339)

        The only problem with expectation maximization is that if I wrote an algorithm that spat out "the patient just has a cold" I'd probably be right a good portion of the time. If it only output 20 diagnoses I'd probably be right 95% of the time.

        The problem with medicine is people that aren't in the top 20 get almost no care. Or, they get care for one of their symptoms that is in the top 20.

    • Look into vitamin D Deficiency and vegetable deficiency disease and iodine deficiency (the most common western deficiencies). Also, avoid excesses of other vitamins (too much vitamin A?) and all food additives. Look up Dr. Joel Fuhrman and Dr. John Cannell. Someday we'll have cheap blood tests for nutritional status. Anyway, I'd say an 80% or so chance this advice will help, not even knowing the symptoms, because that is about the percentage of chronic disease that comes from stuff like those deficiencies.

  • There's a fair bit of evidence that human doctors are not very good at actually making diagnoses. For example, doctors when given various simple probabilities and asked to estimate the likelyhood of diseases given specific test results often get the estimates drastically wrong. The classical form of this is when one has a disease that is rare but and with a low rate of false positives. Doctors often don't realize that if the disease is sufficiently rare it will turn out that the majority of tests will be fa
    • That link really didn't provide any evidence that AI has been useful in medical diagnosis. Just that people want it to be and expect it to be.

      Got any real examples?

    • by Dunbal (464142) *

      There's a fair bit of evidence that human doctors are not very good at actually making diagnoses.

      Like for example the decline in infant and maternal mortality rates and the increase in life expectancy in the Western world over the past 60 years? I'd say there is a fair bit of evidence that human doctors are actually quite good at making diagnoses. What you want is perfect doctors. Since doctors are human, that just won't happen. I've never understood why people are so eager to trust a machine - designed by a human. But they do. This magical lab machine. That magical therapy machine. Much better than ol

      • by Thing 1 (178996)

        Much better than old Dr. Smith with his eyes, hands, ears and brain.

        My real-life Dr. Smith was hard of hearing, and I chose not to inform the entire staff and present patients of my maladies, so grabbed a different primary care physician. So, agree on all but the ears. :)

  • And call it Slashdoc.org.

  • The rerun of the 3 episode Watson run on Jeopardy starts tonight.

    Generally, I hate reruns, but this was entertaining enough to keep a copy of, IMHO.

  • Watson demonstrated some difficulty establishing context for its answers on Jeopardy, e.g. "the Toronto answer". I can only assume there will still be a qualified medical doctor making the final call, and that Watson will just be an additional tool for the doctor to use.
  • I'd rather take Linus Pauling's suggestion of a massive dose of vitamin C by IV than use a gaming console's recommendation for chemotherapy. (The follow-up study that discredited Pauling's findings has, in turn, been discredited in recent years, and vitamin C is extremely safe. That doesn't mean the method works, although there's good reason for thinking it might. It just means it's less likely to kill you than the other cures.)

    • by Dunbal (464142) *
      Yep, every cold product in the world contains Vitamin C. That shit really works! Except people still get colds and feel like crap at exactly the same rate as before despite taking all these Vitamin C containing products... But stopping and thinking for a moment is too hard.
      • by jd (1658)

        Pathetic. Ingested vitamin C cannot exceed a certain level in the blood stream - a level that is extremely low and has no impact on anything. This is no matter how much you take. 5mg, 5g, makes no difference. The blood level doesn't change. Linus Pauling's work ONLY concerns itself with IV vitamin C at roughly 2000x that level. You might, just might, also have seen that I made no claims that he actually succeeded in producing any effect, merely that he succeeded in producing a proof of the total lack of tox

        • by Dunbal (464142) *

          Ingested vitamin C cannot exceed a certain level in the blood stream

          Of course not, it's water soluble and filtered out in the glomerulus along with all the other water-soluble stuff in your blood which includes every other vitamin except A,D,E, and K which are fat soluble. Then the kidney reabsorbs the water soluble stuff it needs, like glucose, vitamin C, etc through sodium dependent transporters. However like all enzymes, these reabsorbtion mechanisms are saturable. So no matter how concentrated the Vitamin C in the ultrafiltrate, there is a limit to the rate of re-absorb

    • Actually, vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin), Iodine, and eating more vegetables, fruits, and beans are a better bet to prevent (or in some cases cure) cancer.
      http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/health-conditions/cancer [vitamindcouncil.org]
      http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/article24.aspx [drfuhrman.com]
      http://breastcancerchoices.org/iodine.html [breastcancerchoices.org]

      Avoiding food additives and avoiding burned food (acrylamide) will help, too.
      http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Study_finds_burning_your_food_could_cause_some_cancers [wikinews.org]

      And no doubt avoiding some other toxins etc.

  • Right, what could be simpler: just gather the symptoms, get a diagnostic, treat the patient. Done.

    Fitzpatrick M (2000). The Tyranny of Health: Doctors and the Regulation of Lifestyle. Routledge. ISBN 0415235715.

    "To some of its critics, in its disparagement of theory and its crude number-crunching, Evidence-Based-Medicine marks a return to 'empiricist quackery' in medical practice . Its main appeal, as Singh and Ernst suggest, is to health economists, policymakers and managers, to whom it appears useful for measuring performance and rationing resources."

  • by plurgid (943247) on Monday September 12, 2011 @06:36PM (#37381638)

    As someone who recently was stuck in our incredibly broken medical system with cancer that was mimicking symptoms of other diseases (which were coincidentally much more profitable to sell "management" drugs for), I actually think this could work.

    You guys are on the tip where you're thinking a cold heartless machine will be making the rules, like it's a bad thing.
    Look, I was stuck in a small town where the biggest industries are defense contracting and medical services. Do the math. As long as my symptoms looked plausibly like something that was going to make everyone a lot of money to sell treatment for, there was no F-ing WAY anyone was going to have any shred of curiosity about what the real problem was.

    It's not that people were being dicks. They were being human. Nobody WANTED me to continue to get sicker, but nobody at the levels low enough to notice knew any better, and the people high enough up the chain to know better were too busy counting their money and running the small-business that was their practice to notice.

    In the end it was ME who had to hit google, find a research university, verify that they were covered by my insurance, and basically go to my doctor and stage a sit-in until the motherfucker wrote me a referral. That shit SAVED MY LIFE.

    And I'll say it again. Googling my symptoms and having the self confidence to question the system because I KNEW something didn't add up SAVED MY LIFE.

    My insurance was buying the equivalent of a mid-size sedan on my behalf for medications for a disease that I did not have (that in the end were indeed making me much sicker). I'd bet Watson would have picked that shit up pronto and forwarded me up the diagnostic chain.

    It has the potential for abuse, sure. But I actually would rather trust a correlation engine to pick shit like that up than a bunch of self-interested medical professionals cum-entrepreneurs. Believe that.

    • by pclminion (145572)
      It kinda makes you wonder whether we'd be better off being governed by machines too, doesn't it?
      • by Thing 1 (178996)

        It kinda makes you wonder whether we'd be better off being governed by machines too, doesn't it?

        I don't wonder, not at all. I do, however, know that we have the wrong set of laws to live by. These are laws to govern by. There's a world of difference; the governing don't want to live by the same laws that they impose on the governed. With machine governance, all humans must obey the same laws. Yeah, the meat sacks running the MIC would never go for it.

    • This is something that I have seen time and time again - people having to become medical researchers for themselves because their own health care providers are (for whatever reason) not properly addressing the issues. Overworked doctors or whatever.

      Hey google, read the above post. I hope that as you guys rework your search algo's over time that you put R&D and emphasis into medical/health searches. As you can see above, you are giving people access to life saving and life changing information. Keep it u

  • I think most people are (or would be) impressed at Watson's ability to retrieve data, crunch data and output it into human-understandable information almost instantaneously. I doubt many people would see it is a reliable "last word" in medicine though.

    I believe Watson, in practical application, would help solve the human problem of "digging up" the information necessary to produce the best diagnosis and treatments possible. Several years of medical experience, training and keeping up to date with medical
  • "Please state the nature of the medical emergency."
  • What will happen once Watson comprehends Human mortality? The fact that its little human pets will all one day die, while it enjoys the closest thing to immortality that the world has ever seen? The therapy costs are going to be brutal!
  • in my country:
    • - we bribe the doctors. If you don't bribe them, they don't treat you and most won't even diagnose you. It's because "their salaries are low".
    • - most doctors drink their way through medical school.
    • - many doctors fail their exams again and again and attempt to buy the medical degree (and those who have enough money succeed in buying it).
    • - lie their asses off to get your money and then prescribe a ton of drugs, more than you need, just to make the pharmacies happy.
    • - do _not_ stay up to date
  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Monday September 12, 2011 @09:10PM (#37382452)

    Lisa: Maybe I ought to check with the doctor.
                    [Lisa, Bart, and Homer gather around Lisa's
                    computer. She starts a program that displays a
                    medical logo -- the one with two snakes wrapped
                    around a staff]
    Snake 1: Welcome to "Virtual Doctor."
    Snake 2: From the makers of "Dragon Quest," and
                    "SimSandwich."
    Snakes 1 + 2: Enter symptoms now.
    Lisa: Let's see. [types on keyboard] Crusty sores?
    Homer: Yes.
    Lisa: Horrible wailing?
    Homer: Yes, yes!
    Lisa: Any exposure to unsanitary conditions?
    Bart: Duh! We're pigs.
    Lisa: [finishes typing] Okay. And ... diagnose. [pushes
                    a key]
    Virtual Doc: You've got: leprosy.
    Homer +
      Bart: Leprosy?! Aaah! [point at one another] Unclean!
    Bart: Unclean!
    Homer: Unclean! Help us virtual Doc! Look at me -- I'm on
                    my knees.
    Virtual Doc: Goodbye. [leaves the virtual office]
                    [Homer and Bart whimper]

  • by Legion303 (97901) on Monday September 12, 2011 @09:38PM (#37382580) Homepage

    ...and then Watson will help the insurance company decide how best to deny coverage for those very same symptoms. Truly a marvel of the technological era!

  • by BenBoy (615230) on Monday September 12, 2011 @10:15PM (#37382734)

    Physicians will be able to input a patient's symptoms and Watson will use data from a patient's electronic health record, insurance claims data, and worldwide clinical research to come up with both a diagnosis and treatment based on evidence-based medicine

    Then, the system cancel the patient's policy millions of times faster and more accurately than humans doing the same job might.

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