After the computer known as Watson easily dispatched of the best two human Jeopardy! contestants in history, IBM announced that one of the first applications of their artificial intelligence technology would be in the medical field. We should soon expect virtual physician assistants in the exam room. At least one of my friends even speculated that the days of human doctors are numbered.
Is it possible that machines will replace humans in the doctor-patient relationship? I doubt it. According to a study done by the Mayo Clinic in 2006, the most important characteristics patients feel a good doctor must possess are entirely human. According to the study, the ideal physician is confident, empathetic, humane, personal, forthright, respectful, and thorough. Watson may have proved his cognitive superiority, but can a computer ever be taught these human attributes needed to negotiate through patient fear, anxiety, and confusion? Could such a computer ever come across as sincere?
I’m afraid some major calibrations might be needed to substitute artificial intelligence for an “ideal” physician. What do you think? Here’s an artist’s conception (read: farce) of how such an application in the examining room might play out. Click HERE to watch the medical cartoon.
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.
We recently reported our interview with Dr. Henry Feldman of the Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston and his experience using the iPad as his sole computing device while attending on the wards. Overall, his experience was positive, while accessing the hospital networks, using clinical applications and questions about security. Be sure also to check out Future Docs blog and Dr. Arora’s experience using the iPad on the wards to get more real-world perspectives on using the iPad on the wards.
Among the few difficulties Dr. Feldman had, one was that typing long notes on the glass keyboard was cumbersome, requiring the use a desktop computer for admission and discharge notes. This may now turn out to be one of the easiest problems to solve, if two recently announced iPad cases are any indication. Sena and Kensington are both releasing iPad cases with built-in bluetooth keyboards. Each has a built in battery and the cases fold into dimensions not much larger than a standard iPad case. Read more »
Thomas writes about science, health, and medicine and believes that engaging people in their health and involving them as participants and decision makers leads to improving their behavior and their health outcomes. He knows there’s a technology emergence of cheaper, better tools that have the ability to offer people a way “in” — from self-tracking gadgets to online disease communities and beyond. Thomas is intrigued by the confluence of ideas and technology that make it an opportune time in healthcare.
The Decision Tree is based on the premise that our health doesn’t happen all at once, but that it’s a consequence of years of choices — some large, some small, some wise, some poor. A decision tree, therefore, is a “device” that can help make it more obvious that these decisions are something we are actually choosing — a way to externalize the choices that we otherwise make without much thought.
Maria: As executive editor of Wired Magazine, what brought you to write a book about consumer health?
Thomas: I come from a family of healthcare providers — my father is a doctor, my mother is a nurse — so it’s always been a topic area I’ve been comfortable with. A few years ago I felt that I had more to add, and wanted to get more specific in my training, so I got my masters in public health at UC Berkeley. That led me to recognize all sorts of commonalities between the worlds of information technology and public health. At the same time, technologists in Silicon Valley and elsewhere have recognized that healthcare is one of the last industries untouched, in many senses, by the IT revolution. It’s happening now, very quickly, and I wanted to be among the first to not only cover the business, but to cover the way these companies and services will change and improve our lives. Read more »
An eye-popping statistic shows that 94 percent of doctors have adopted smartphones, in part to keep up with an information glut. A consulting group released results of 100 in-depth interviews with physicians working in acute and ambulatory care environments in numerous specialties nationwide. The physicians used the phones to communicate, manage personal/business workflows, and access information, including medical reference materials. (In case you’re curious about what your peers are using, 44 percent use an iPhone and 25 percent use a BlackBerry.)
This growth in adoption — a 60 percent increase since 2006 — isn’t surprising, since the same survey reported that doctors’ biggest challenges are communicating with colleagues in a timely manner, the volume of communications with patients and the entire care team, and the different platforms (e-mail, voice mail, pager, etc.) needed to keep up with it all.
But one early adopter, Dr. Rob Lamberts, ACP member, cautions that while the new technology can help, it isn’t yet.
It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…
I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…
I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…
When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…
I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…