Jewish World Review Sept. 13, 2011 / 14 Elul, 5771
Paging Dr. Watson; he's there in 3 seconds
By Dale McFeatters
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | We know that IBM's supercomputers can demolish human beings in games.
In 1997 Deep Blue beat reigning champion Garry Kasparov at chess. Then a descendant, an even more super computer named Watson, laid waste to TV's "Jeopardy" stars.
Now Watson is getting a new, and arguably much more useful challenge, as a resource for doctors seeking diagnoses and treatments for disease.
The huge health insurer WellPoint Inc., which also operates Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in 14 states, including California and New York, has hired IBM and Watson to collate, synthesize and analyze patient, doctor, hospital and pharmaceutical records and have it in front of the patient's doctor in three seconds.
Watson will also have access to huge libraries of medical journals and textbooks. For its Jeopardy appearance, Watson squirreled away 200 million pages of reference material.
Though Watson may sound a little Orwellian, WellPoint says it will not base treatment decisions solely on Watson and that the computer will not be used to screen claims. Disagreement between Watson and the attending doctor will be referred to third-party clinicians.
Converting paper medical files to accessible electronic records has been a government goal since the Clinton administration. It was inevitable that they would be computerized; the only thing special about Watson is its size and gamesmanship background.
If it works as planned, Watson could be a true advance in medical administration. The computer is named after IM's first president, Thomas J. Watson, but if it works as planned it may be more commonly thought of a Sherlock Holmes' physician sidekick, Dr. Watson.
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