Every doctor gets a helping hand with Watson supercomputer

The problem-solving computer Watson has surely proven itself. "Jeopardy!" competition demonstrated that Watson is able to parse natural-language questions and come up with answers that are typically, though not at all times, right. Researchers now hope the problem solving ability of Watson could be turned onto healthcare questions. Watson's diagnostic abilities are still being tested. One of probably the most unique features of the supercomputer is that it will consider information such as personal blogs in diagnostic estimations.

Thinking for Watson

The reason why the International Business Machines supercomputer, Watson, was built was not to solve troubles. It was so he could win "Jeopardy!" at some time. The program was given a ton of information to be able to develop answers to questions when asked them. In the showdown against two of the game show's biggest stars, Watson won handily. Since Watson has to understand natural language, it is even more amazing that he has been able to problem solve. The "probability engine" style of problem-solving also considers all logical possibilities, rather than giving a single solution to any problem.

Medical school where Watson goes next

After winning "Jeopardy!" Watson's programmers indicated that they thought the problem-solving capability of the computer could be put to use in the healthcare field. Now, that is going to become a reality. It has only been a few months though. Rather than the library of encyclopedias, movie scripts and historical information, Watson is being fed healthcare journals and diagnostic manuals. Columbia University healthcare researchers are assisting with training Watson for medical use, and healthcare students are feeding the computer hypothetical patients in order to test the diagnostic algorithms. When fed a list of symptoms, Watson will return a list of possible diagnoses and suggested treatments. Watson will even consider narcotic allergies and complicating symptoms.

New information availability

Any newly available information is very easily given to Watson which is a big benefit. Watson's programmers are considering the possibility of adding medical blogs and off-label narcotic uses to Watson's database. Diagnosing a patient will become more accurate. Doctors will have options for treatment they might never have considered. It is also easier for Watson to diagnose a patient. All information will be incorporated and not left out. Doctors will still be necessary though. Doctors have to make the final opinion on treatment for patients after considering what Watson has suggested. Doctors could consult "Watson portals" if International Business Machines engineers can get it prepared. In the end, it will all be up to the doctor and patient though.

Articles cited

USA Today

usatoday.com/tech/news/2011-05-21-watson-medicine_n.htm

CBS News

cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-20065277-10391704.html