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Watson Coming to the Exam Room

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“Medical diagnosis for 400, Alex.”

“Creeping and crawling. Tingling and gnawing. This disease jerks you to your feet.”

Between sometimes conflicting and confusing lists of symptoms, a plethora of test results and fragmented and scattered patient histories, doctors often struggle to come to a correct and speedy diagnosis.

Dion Rudnicki, a senior location executive for IBM, has the perfect solution; Watson, the Jeopardy-winning computer.

“What is Restless Leg Syndrome, Alex.”

Rudnicki considers Watson to be the perfect physicians assistant, capable of providing diagnoses, recommending tests and alerting doctors to possible drug interactions.

“Watson’s ability to parse ungrammatical statements, interpret puns and deal with ambiguity, human-like traits that helped it to win a TV game show, promise to give it a role in more serious endeavors,” Rudnicki said in a Baltimore Sun op-ed.

According to Rudnicki, IBM is already hard at work looking into medical uses for Watson-like technology in partnership with Dr. Eliot Siegel, director of the Maryland Imaging Research Technologies Lab at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The team is looking into how Watson can be adapted to a medical setting.

Will Watson join the medical school’s class of 2017? Like any healthcare practitioner, Watson will need to learn medical terminology and anatomy. Hardly challenging for the super computer. How he’ll do in a course on bedside manner, however, remains to be seen.

Rudnicki isn’t concerned Watson will flunk out, though. The impact Watson would have on patient care seems limitless to him.

“If we embrace these advances and use technology to improve the lives and health of our citizens, then Watson’s success on ‘Jeopardy’ will translate into something that all of humanity can celebrate,” Rudnicki said.


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