Jeopardy watson is now taking on computer medicine

by Avinash Saxena

The computer that defeated humanity’s finest Jeopardy players in February isn’t stopping at game show domination. Its creators have been busy retrofitting the computer to help doctors diagnose and treat patients.

Watson’s potential applications in healthcare have been a subject of discussion since its debut. According to American Medical News, IBM has partnerships with eight major universities to get medical data for Watson’s information base and to help find the best ways for physicians to use Watson.

A professor at Columbia University, one of those partner schools, has articulated more specifically how Watson might one day enhance healthcare.

“It’s been impossible for probably 20 or 30 years for a human to process the information required to practice medicine at the highest, evidence-based, guideline-based level,” Herbert Chase, a professor of clinical medicine, recently told university newspaper The Record.

Chase has been working with IBM to turn Watson into a doctor’s assistant that can process all of that information. In experiments, Chase and a team of two students give Watson lists of several symptoms that a patient might experience, and Watson gives back a handful of suggestions for what the problem might be. Where these suggestions miss the mark, Chase and his students inspect the cause of the inaccuracy.

The intention is not to one day replace doctors with Watson but to help them analyze data in a way that extends beyond human capabilities. In his interview with The Record, Chase suggests that the machine could be especially helpful in personalized medicine since it could efficiently analyze a patient’s medical history in order to suggest the most appropriate treatment option.



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