Tuesday, June 28, 2011

3 Can a computer more accurately diagnose Lyme disease than a human?

I came across this article earlier today, though so far I haven't seen mention of it in the Lyme disease community. (It was published earlier this month, though, so I might have missed it.)
The article, "Just Months After Jeopardy!, Watson Wows Doctors With Medical Knowledge" is about how a computer can make connections between seemingly unrelated symptoms to determine a patient's diagnosis.

In this case, the following scenario and outcome was presented:
"The trainee was sequentially presented the details of a fictitious patient: there’s an eye problem; vision is blurred; the family, living in Connecticut, has a history of arthritis. The trainee’s initial response was uveitis. More clues and the diagnosis was changed to Behcet’s disease until finally the trainee settled on Lyme disease. How sure was this seemingly hasty student of medicine? Seventy-three percent sure."
One important point to be made about the database-based doctor:

"Following its resounding victory on Jeopardy!, IBM’s Watson has been working hard to learn as much about medicine as it can with a steady diet of medical textbooks and healthcare journals. The mock case described above was part of a recent demonstration to the Associated Press showing just how much Watson has learned. The robot’s diagnosis was correct and it identified a link between symptom and cause that was “not common,” as one participating physician called it. After being told the patient was pregnant and allergic to penicillin, Watson suggested treating her with cefuroxine. Its human colleagues agreed."
A striking statement was made further on about how the amount of medical knowledge available doubles every 5-7 years and doctors struggle to keep up with it. This would definitely make the case for having a medical database at one's disposal to assist with diagnosis, but to me nothing is going to replace observation and good old hands-on examinations for many conditions.

We aren't quite at the level of Star Trek probes, but perhaps we're headed that way in the future.

Read more here, at the following link: http://singularityhub.com/2011/06/06/just-months-after-jeopardy-watson-wows-doctors-with-medical-knowledge/


  1. Always remember that Lyme is the New Great Imitator---- but one with no test that can tell with 100% certainty if you have it or no long have it.

    That adds another level to 'imitation'.

  2. cave76,

    Nanobots! We need nanobots that can search for the mRNA and proteins of Bb in our bodies and knock them out with little lytic cannons!

    What do you think? Have I been reading too much Greg Egan?

  3. Check out this review:

    Greg Egan's "Steve Fever"

    Here's an example of nanobots learning and taking their original mission just a little bit far...


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