If you’ve been watching Jeopardy! over the past couple days, you probably know that IBM’s highly-advanced artificial intelligence software, Watson, has been competing against Jeopardy!’s most successful contestants (and as of Tuesday night, took a commanding lead over the humans, despite having some trouble with United States geography).
Besides the amazing ability to power through “Daily Doubles” and answer random trivia in the form of a question, IBM researchers believe that Watson could revolutionize the healthcare industry. From diagnostics to informatics, Watson could quickly search through medical records, clinical documents, and research information for precise answers that would benefit both doctors and patients.
Check out the video below to see physicians explain how Watson’s technology could transform medicine.
Also watch the TED.com webcast of Dr. David Ferrucci (Principal Investigator of the DeepQA/Watson project at IBM), Dr. Herbert Chase (Professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University School of Physicians and Surgeons), and others discussing the Jeopardy! challenge and the impact the technology behind Watson could have on society.
Abdominal pain is the bane of many emergency physicians. Recently, I wrote how CT scans are on the rise in the ER. Much of those scans look for potential causes of abdominal pain.
In an essay from Time, Dr. Zachary Meisel discusses why abdominal pain, in his words, is the doctor’s “booby prize.” And when you consider that there are 7 million visits annually by people who report abdominal pain, that’s a lot of proverbial prizes.
One reason is the myriad of causes that lead bring a patient to the hospital clutching his abdomen. It can range from something as relatively benign as viral gastroenteritis where a patient be safely discharged home, to any number of “acute” abdominal problems necessitating surgery.
But more importantly, we need to consider how limited doctors actually are in the ER. Consider the ubiquitous CT scan, which is being ordered with increasing regularity:
The pros: CT scans are readily available, able to look at every organ in the abdomen and pelvis, and very good for ruling out many of the immediately life-threatening causes of belly pain. CT scans can also reduce the need for exploratory surgery. The cons: Often, CTs can’t diagnose the actual cause of ER patients’ abdominal pain. Worse, CTs deliver significant doses of radiation to a patient’s abdomen and pelvis (equivalent to between 100 and 250 chest X-rays). Over a lifetime, patients who receive two or three abdominal CT scans are exposed to more radiation than many Hiroshima survivors.
Add that to the fact that patients expect a definitive diagnosis when visiting the hospital — one that doctors can’t always give when it comes to abdominal pain. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at KevinMD.com*
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