When we think of breakthroughs in our healthcare system, we often place our hopes in miracle drugs, cutting-edge research, or new legislation. But IBM has something entirely different in mind to change the medical playing field.
Using the same supercomputer that competed and beat two Jeopardy champions in 2011, IBM is developing Watson to digest complex information and make medical recommendations more efficiently than humans.
The Atlantic article, “The Robot Will See you Now,” presents a detailed look into the revolutionary machine and how it could be an effective tool in the health care industry.
In order to help train Watson for medical purposes, researchers at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York have been developing fictional cases to demonstrate Watson’s ability to absorb complex cases and “natural language” and make intelligent medical diagnosis.
Unlike any other machine, Watson is able to process up to 60 million pages of text per second, whether the information is in the form of unstructured physician notes or complex medical jargon. Researchers have also found that the longer Watson is exposed to real cases, it gets better at figuring out medical problems and ways of treating them. The article states, “Watson even has the ability to convey doubt. When it makes diagnoses and recommends treatments, it usually issues a series of possibilities, each with its own level of confidence attached.”
“Watson fills in for some human limitations,” Kohn told me in an interview. “Studies show that humans are good at taking a relatively limited list of possibilities and using that list, but are far less adept at using huge volumes of information. That’s where Watson shines: taking a huge list of information and winnowing it down.” Read more…
But the notion of having a robot make serious medical recommendations and decisions poses many questions. Just how much can we rely on artificial intelligence and could it replace human doctors?