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That's Dr. Watson, to you
May 23rd, 2011
04:00 PM ET

That's Dr. Watson, to you

Instead of man versus machine (like the Jeopardy showdown), the makers of Watson, the supercomputer, are toying with how machine can help man - at the hospital.

After defeating his human rivals champions Ken Jennings and  Brad Rutter on Jeopardy earlier this year , Watson, the trivia-question answering supercomputer, is on a new task.

Watson, which has been in development for years, has the processing power of 2,800 "powerful computers," as a major advancement in machines' efforts to understand human language.   It juggles dozens of lines of reasoning at once and tries to arrive at a smart answer.

Medical staff at Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine are seeing if Watson could interact with health workers to help with the diagnosis and treatment of patients.  

Doctors and nurses have to make life-altering decisions based on facts and huge volumes of information.  Watson theoretically could provide assistance by unlocking facts and data that the human brain cannot tap immediately.

Its ability to answer questions, process language could provide health care workers with timely information during critical moments, according to a press release from IBM and Nuance Communications.  Watson can refer to reference materials, previous cases, and the latest studies in journals and medical literature. Using its wealth of information, Watson could help the health care workers determine the most likely diagnosis and treatment options.

In the release,  Dr. Herbert Chase, professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons said: “Watson has the potential to help doctors reduce the time needed to evaluate and determine the correct diagnosis for a patient. We also believe that Watson also has the ability to help doctors provide personalized treatment options that are tailored to an individual patient's needs.”

A doctor’s office version of Watson could be commercially available within two years, according to the companies.

Would you want your doctors to consult Watson for your diagnosis or treatment?  Sound off below.


soundoff (85 Responses)
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.