Disrupted Health – IBM Watson makes disease diagnosis elementary

For IBM’s dear Dr Watson, diagnosing diseases is elementary

Google is able to tell that you are planning to buy a house long before you actually do.  It is able to analyse all the data from your house buying related searches. So that means it looks at your searches for estate agent, mortgages, schools, and public transport. It  then compares the findings with information on other users of a similar profile to find a pattern.

Thomas Goetz recently reminded us, in his compelling TED talk, that further advances in medicine are principally an information challenge and not a science one. In other words, how can mankind make sense of all the health related data we are generating so as to draw insights to provide better healthcare. Think of the wealth of information created by the medical profession and researchers which sits in totally separate databases and continues to grow exponentially.

Consider this stat: 90% of the medical data generated to date has been created in the last two years!

Making sense of all this data is being made possible in part by Moore’s Law, as computers are able to process more and more information. The cloud is also emerging as a massive depository of medical data that can be more easily connected, and which can be more easily accessed by doctors and other medical professionals.

Supercomputers, such as  IBM’s Watson, are now facilitating deep analysis and evidence‐based reasoning for more precise diagnosis  and  clinical  decision‐making.  IBM’s Watson  is  able  to  read  200 million  papers  in  three seconds.  This makes it possible for it to process patients’ electronic health  records,  genomics,  clinical  data  and  health  care professionals’ peer‐reviewed publications.  It  is  also  able  to monitor  real time  data  and  new  articles  as  they  are published.

By  taking  advantage  of  these  technologies,  medical  scientists  are, for example, improving  leukaemia  treatment  through data mining medical  literature. Health  insurers are using Watson  to  speed  pre‐approval  processes  for  patients.  Teaching  hospitals  have begun working  with  IBM  Watson  to  improve medical  school  training,  where  they  are  collaborating  to offer  doctors  real‐time  analysis  of  patient  records  to  improve care.

Apps that allow doctors and medical practitioners to look up databases containing  information on thousands of diseases, including  signs,  symptoms  and  lab  findings, and/or query supercomputers such as IBM Watson are  now  a reality.

The doctor is often guesstimating what is wrong with us based  on  our  answers  to  his/her questions,  and knowledge. Imagine our future visits to our doctor, where our data, collected by ourselves via our device and/or wearable, along with our symptoms can be cross referenced with data from other medical science databases to support our doctor in reaching a much more accurate diagnosis without necessarily having to send you off to have various tests. [iDisrupted pages 226 & 227]

Technology and medical science advances are disrupting healthcare as we know it. Our book called iDisrupted, to be released on Nov 13, will give greater insight in the breadth and depth of technology disruption in healthcare and other aspects of our lives. iDisrupted is available to pre-order on Amazon now.

Julien de Salaberry