Dr. Watson to the Rescue

Watson the IMB supercomuter may soon be used to diagnose patients.  Dr. Chase of Columbia, not the show House, has teamed up with IBM to “retrofit” Watson for use as an aid to physicians in diagnosing patient ailments.  Presumably, Watson could comb through unthinkable amounts of data in seconds flat and cough up a diagnosis.

I tell you one thing, I’d rather a doctor use Watson then to step out of the room to consult Web MD, as I suspect some do.  You know those ask your doctor commercials on TV?…Is Zegred OT right for you, or whatever…I’d like to ask my doctor if he could ask Watson what’s up with my ailing “frozen” shoulder.

I do have some reservations though. Watson is not omniscient.  It is a computer programmed by humans, who have been known to fail upon occasion.  Don’t forget that on Jeopardy, Watson did not answer all the questions correctly. It thought Toronto was a U.S. city, and it buzzed in to give the same wrong answer that its competitor gave.  Watson may be intelligent, but not a very good listener.

I can imagine a scenario where a doctor plugs in some data about an elderly male patient who has the chills, an earache and leg cramps and after a a 15 second delay, Watson comes back with a likely diagnosis: Colic.  Treatment:  Warm milk.

Actually, warm milk might just do the trick, I don’t know, but if you ask me, I say I’d rather my doctor stay informed than depend on a computer. After all, a computer is potentially more vulnerable to a virus than a doctor.

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