Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Be Very Afraid of Dr. Watson

Here's food for (disturbing) thought:

WellPoint Insurance plans to use the IBM super-computer "Watson" to assist doctors in diagnosing illnesses. Watson, of course, is the computer known for beating the top Jeopardy! champions at the game of trivia. Now, a major insurance company is counting on the computer's vast resources and lightening speed to provide guidance to doctors as they seek diagnosis and treatment options.

The company spokesperson was quick to assure consumers that patients need not fear that WellPoint will deny care if in making a diagnosis of choosing a treatment option a doctor chooses to ignore the advice of the computer. In those cases, the insurer "will have a clinician review the case." A "clinician"? What the heck does that mean?

Is this an example of "trivializing" health care? Or is that just redundant at this point?

Be afraid people. Be very, very afraid.


Mike Thiac said...

I'm less concerned about that as IPAB...the, for lack of a better term, death panel from Obamacare.

mmazenko said...

"Death Panels?" Really?

And, of course, we'll still watching the sky for UN Black Op helicopters, and we're still looking in Iraq for WMDs, and we're still uncovering that Al Qaeda link to Saddam Hussein ... and then of course there are the aliens at Area 51.

Mike Thiac said...


This is the basic of the article

In one of those pilots, said Anthem spokeswoman Joyzelle Davis, the insurer would select oncologists to use Watson in helping to pick the most effective treatment for cancer patients. Watson would combine the patient's medical history, test results and a deep database of potential treatments to recommend specific drugs or treatments to doctors.

After the pilots show results, WellPoint will evaluate the program and could potentially expand Watson into wellness and other areas, she said. Anthem has 950,000 Colorado members.

"Imagine having the ability within three seconds to look through all of that information, to have it be up to date, scientifically presented to you, and based on that patient's medical needs at the moment, you're caring for that patient," said WellPoint's chief medical officer, Dr. Sam Nussbaum.

Yes, since 06 I believe it was the US has been moving towards computerizing medical records. This allows doctor's to check the various factors of a person's current condition, medical history, available treatments more efficiently. Now with a supercomputer this makes it even more efficient. But as the article says, it is in the pilot phase.

You seem to think an insurance company is turning medical decision over to a piece of IBM machinery and a high school graduate with some junior college added in, A "clinician"? What the heck does that mean?. A definition you appear to be ignorant of.

cli·ni·cian (kl-nshn)
A physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of patients, not in other areas such as research.
Source: http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/clinician

In case you don't get it, that in a physician who is licensed by a state to treat human beings. Are we clear on that now?

Which brings me to something your rant implies ignorance of, the law. Why is it we only allow people who have gone through medical school, residency, etc to preform medicine on other humans? Because they have to by law. Every state has a medical board which licenses MDs. No license and you can't give a man a flu shot. You seem to suggest this company will let a computer decide on medical treatment. It cannot. Only a licensed doctor (or PA or nurse for certain lower levels of treatment) can order medical treatment.

we'll still watching the sky for UN Black Op helicopters, and we're still looking in Iraq for WMDs, and we're still uncovering that Al Qaeda link to Saddam Hussein ... and then of course there are the aliens at Area 51.

Feel free believe in anything you want to Mike...as far as Area 51 I will stick to the wisdom of another well know alien.

Captain William Christopher, "Well I've never believed in little green men."
Commander Spock, "Neither have I."

mmazenko said...

Interesting points. I appreciate the use of computerized searches to assist doctors. I'm just uncomfortable by a policy that seems to second guess the doctor if he disagrees.

Mike Thiac said...

But as the article says, this is a pilot program....let's see how it works out.

Scary, we seem to be in a bit of agreement