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IBM's Watson Heads for Clinics, Spurring Debate

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, February 12, 2013

But techniques such as Watson may also crack some of healthcare's harder nuts, such as how to decide on a course of treatment when multiple chronic diseases are present. For instance, should the physician treat congestive heart failure at the risk of making the same patient's asthma worse?

In some cases, only a massive speed-read of all available literature may be able to help suggest answers to that question and others like it.

Meanwhile, the debate about the role of AI in healthcare is just getting started. I expect a vigorous set of put-downs of Watson in the comments on this column. But just as I wouldn't have bet against Wikipedia or Google, I'm not going to bet against this technology's value either. After all, even Wikipedia and Google have assumed a certain role in today's healthcare technology puzzle, even if it's only to advise patients while they wait for their specialist appointments. (And what doctor doesn't use Google in his or her research?)

In the near future, even the medical experts will find themselves more dependent on and appreciative of ever more technology-fueled answers as well.


Scott Mace is senior technology editor at HealthLeaders Media.
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3 comments on "IBM's Watson Heads for Clinics, Spurring Debate"


bobstucco (2/18/2013 at 11:40 AM)
You're right about someone needing to do the hands-on evaluation, but with Watson, would that person still need to be a board-certified physician?

Jeff (2/16/2013 at 9:06 AM)
The phrase "thought he knew most everything" speaks volumes. Many physicians I know suffer from the cognitive bias of over-confidence, to the detriment of patients. Where Watson truly shines is in avoiding the cognitive biases that plague us humans.

J.Lord (2/14/2013 at 4:52 PM)
As a patient, I would welcome any technology that could diagnose and suggest treatment based on both historic and the most current data. No physician has the time to stay 100% current on all treatment options. We'll always need practitioners to do the human-to-human part of the exam [INVALID]'hands-on' and eye-to-eye feedback [INVALID] that machines will never replace.