While not a solution for the looming physician shortage in the United States, IBM’s super smart computer, Watson, is going to medical school.
The New York Times’ Bits blog reported that the question-answering computer, which defeated two all-time Jeopardy! champions, will work with the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University.
The purpose of this training would be to provide assistance to physicians so they could “cope better with the rapid pace of incoming new research,” according to NYT.
James K., Stoller, MD, chairman of the Education Institute at Cleveland Clinic, told NYT that the existing knowledge in medicine has a half-life down to four to eight years before it becomes obsolete. And this loss of accuracy is happening at an accelerated rate.
This exploration into health care will challenge what Watson is programmed to do. Right now the computer is a question-and-answer machine. However, medicine provides many variables to one problem, such as symptoms, family history, genetics, etc.
According to IBM, Watson also could potentially answer questions at the point of care, improving quality and reducing costly errors.
Watson has other implications on the future of health care. The type of process that Watson uses could help physicians mine the mountain of data that is becoming available electronically. According to IBM:
"For instance, as EHR systems are adopted by government mandate, physician notes are digitized in a computer readable format. It is a large repository of information to mine for symptom indicators, treatment efficacy, and potential medical errors."
I.B.M.’s Watson Goes to Medical School – New York Times’ Bits blog