Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Medical Applications of Watson

After last night's impressive performance from Watson, a lot of people are talking about future applications of a system like Watson. I am excited to see how it does today. Hopefully it will do even better this time around.

A particularly interesting application of an AI system like Watson is medical diagnosis. Watson could be used as a comprehensive medical dictionary, capable of matching a set of symptoms to a condition. This sort of "diagnosis suggestion" to physicians could prove to be very useful. It would ensure that every possible disease is checked against, and nothing is overlooked.

Of course, a huge problem would be information filtering. There are a lot of possible causes to a soar throat and a cough. I've mentioned a this a few times before now. Health care practitioners usually don't have time to do a comprehensive scan of everything that may or may not be relevant to a case. I've been told that most physicians prefer something like "history of cancer" over a huge record of medical history. I think one of the largest goals of technology in healthcare will be to deliver concise, valuable information to medical practitioners, while ensuring that nothing important is missed.

A system like Watson might also be used as a filtering system to alleviate this problem. The system could query for potential causes, and then filter them based on probability. Doctor's could then walk down the list, checking for the possible problems.  Of course, this system wouldn't be put to use every time someone goes to the doctor. It would be reserved for "harder" cases, where the doctor doesn't have an immediately obvious idea of how to proceed.

It'll be interesting to see how long before we see ramifications of Watson show up in the healthcare field. I, for one, am looking forward to it.


  1. Funny that you wrote that today, because I was going to show you this video :P

  2. Yo! Play those Trauma Center diagnosis missions. I swear it's totally related.