Healthcare Technology Featured Article

November 05, 2012

Supercomputer Watson Moving into Medicine

We all remember IBM’s super computer who showed it could actually beat some of the smartest minds in the trivia world when it made an appearance on Jeopardy. Of course, that particular appearance was more about showing just one of the things the computer can do. There are actually some more relevant uses for the super computer and it appears that IBM has finally sent it down another path. IBM has announced that Watson will be working with the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of medicine.

The super computer’s main reason for existence is gathering information, and now the computer will be sopping up as much information about the medical field as possible. The partnership, which was announced last Tuesday, will mean that clinicians and med school students will be answering questions and correcting any wrong information that the supercomputer might have.

“Hopefully, we can contribute to the training of this technology,” said Dr. James K. Stoller, chairman of the Education Institute at Cleveland Clinic. The goal, he said, was for Watson to become a “very smart assistant.”

One part of the supercomputer’s medical training is to give it test questions from the United States Medical Licensing Exam. Every medical student has to pass these tests in order to become a doctor. Watson will be learning these questions because it will show that the computer is indeed learning, because the questions are very difficult. 

IBM says that once Watson has learned this information the computer certainly won’t be ready to perform operations or see patients. Instead, the computer will serve as the most state of the art medical assistant, one that will allow doctors to cope with the amount of information that is flying around the medical community.

The final goal for Watson, when it comes to the medical field, is to actually start solving problems that stump its human counterparts. This is the ultimate goal for a computer that can actually learn. The designers hope that eventually the computer will be able to do more than answer questions based on knowledge that it has gathered. Eventually they hope Watson will be able to come up with brand new answers that no one has fed it.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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