• September 2012
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Watson Turns Medic: Supercomputer to Diagnose Disease

New Scientist (08/22/12) Jim Giles

IBM’s supercomputer Watson is learning to use its language skills to help doctors diagnose patients.  “It’s a machine that can read everything and forget nothing,” says physician Larry Norton at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.  Watson handles medical questions by drawing on information from medical journals and clinical guidelines.  In order to test the new application, Watson was given 188 questions that it had not seen before and achieved about 50 percent accuracy.  To improve that percentage, Watson is currently absorbing tens of thousands of medical records concerning treatments and outcomes associated with individual patients.  After being provided with data on a new patient, Watson looks for information on those with similar symptoms, as well as the treatments that have bee successful in the past.  Watson is now answering basic questions based on the treatment guidelines that are published by medical societies and is showing very positive results, according to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center doctor William Audeh.  The technology is especially useful in oncology because doctors struggle to keep up with the explosion of genomic and molecular data generated about each cancer type.

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