IBM's Watson Could Take Health IT to New Level

Lora Bentley

We've talked about electronic medical records for years-what they will improve, the risks they present, the lengths to which the government will go to see widespread adoption, and the hurdles health care providers face as they look to deploy new systems and demonstrate meaningful use.


But what about electronic medical assistants? That's what engineers at IBM and Nuance Communications, as well as researchers at the University of Maryland and Columbia University, think is next for Big Blue's "Jeopardy!"-winning supercomputer, Watson.


Forbes blogger Michael Millenson explains:

The company is collaborating ... to create a physician's assistant service that will allow doctors to query a cybernetic assistant. IBM will also work with Nuance Communications to add voice recognition to the physician's assistant, "possibly making the service available in as little as 18 months."

Millenson's one piece of advice for those working on the project? Change the supercomputer's voice from the baritone used on the game show to a deferential, higher-pitched voice.


Watson may know its stuff, but it must not appear to physicians using it that the computer will eventually usurp their duties.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 2, 2011 4:38 AM Arna Arna  says:

"not appear to physicians using it that the computer will eventually usurp their duties"

A general internal medicine doctor (neither IM nor surgical specialist) already costs $250K+ per headcount (including insurances). If that person prescribes pain killers and antibiotics, 50% of the time, and only refers <20% to a specialist, then it's only a matter of time before he's replaced by a machine with a live physician's assistant to assist with the patient care. This is just the way things will go.


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