Monday, February 11, 2013

For Second Opinion, Consult a Computer

Software Programs Help Doctors Diagnose, but Can’t Replace Them - " . . . Dr. Kohn noted, most physicians set aside five hours or less each month to read medical literature, while Watson can analyze the equivalent of thousands of textbooks every second. The program relies heavily on natural language processing. It can understand the nature of a question and review large amounts of information, such as a patient’s electronic medical record, textbooks and journal articles, then offer a list of suggestions with a confidence level assigned to each. For physicians, Dr. Kohn said, one problem is what he calls “the law of availability.” “You aren’t going to put anything on a list that you don’t think is relevant, or didn’t know to think of,” he said. “And that could limit your chances of getting a correct diagnosis.” Dr. Dhaliwal agreed, citing the recent outbreak of hantavirus at Yosemite. Ten people contracted the virus, and three died. “It’s a febrile illness that looks like the flu,” he said. “It’s so rare, the last time you might have seen it was your medical school classroom.” Had Isabel or a similar program been used, the deaths might have been prevented, Dr. Dhaliwal said. . . . "

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