Could IBM Watson replace my doctor?

Junior & I

Now I’m on my way home from US. The visit to IBM was short and sweet. Really fun to see the heart of their research lab where magic happens and coolest ideas are being created by coolest people. But now that meetings are finished I realize that I caught cold, thanks to all that air conditioning. And luckily it’s US and the selection of pills to fight any disease is wide. So I search for a super-pill at Walmart and will for sure be recovered soon. Getting medication in Sweden is much more restrictive – one needs an ordination from a doctor. And our doctor is not extremely bright. Last time I visited him with my newborn Paul Jr who started to develop some rush on his skin the doctor had no clue. What he had was a lot of authority, but absolutely no clue about the reason of the skin rush. So he suggested that Junior may be intolerant to lactose. What? This does not make sense, especially since Junior never had stomach problems. And surely a mother of a small kid does not come unprepared to a doctor’s appointment in the era of big data, social networks and efficient search engines. Of course I had a number of possible diagnoses figured out that I presented to the incompetent doctor. And indeed, he liked my suggestions and prescribed the suggested medicines.

And that was the result of googling through a number of sources on the net for an hour.  A powerful reasoner that operates on a knowledge base of medical information would have completely automated that work for me. In fact, IBM Watson – the engine that has recently beaten humans in Jeopardy (see this video, for example) – has now become a doctor and is perfectly capable of replacing humans when it comes to medical diagnoses. So the new role of doctors could be to provide assurance of what the machine has come up with – that’s much more time efficient and precise.

2 thoughts on “Could IBM Watson replace my doctor?

  1. Pocket calculator would do much better than my doctor. I have only been exposed to Swedish healthcare system five times – birth of Elin @Akademiska – OK, birth of Alexander @Akademiska – disaster, birth of Junior @Danderyd – fantastic, Alexander's squint @St Eriks Ögonsjukhus – fantastic, and Junior's skin rush – disaster. So my own data set is not representative. On the other hand when it comes to healthcare it's not about big data really – it's rather about small data – every single case is important and giving a wrong diagnosis is never ok.


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