IBM’s Dr. Watson Is NOT A Meaningful User

Margalit Gur-Arie | HIT Consultant | February 19, 2013

IBM’s Dr. Watson of Jeopardy! fame has finally completed its residency and fellowships and, presumably to its creators’ utter delight, is now a practicing Oncologist. The prodigy “cognitive system” completed its training in less than a year at the illustrious Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and although only proficient in lung cancer right now, Dr. Watson’s career as an advisor to oncologists everywhere is off to a great start. A recently released video demonstration shows Dr. Watson in action, researching, evaluating and treating a 37 year old woman with newly diagnosed stage IV lung cancer in his advisory capacity to a hurried and pretty uninspiring human oncologist. Regardless of the slightly weird scenario, it is worth noting that in a fraction of a second Dr. Watson, scours 3,469 text books, 69 guidelines, 247,460 journal articles 106,054 other clinical documents and 61,540 clinical trials, and evaluates their contents against the patient’s EMR to identify need for further diagnostic tests and treatment options for this patient. Being an exceedingly helpful advisor, Dr. Watson quickly reads the entire EMR and uses his trained processing power to eliminate all the clutter in the EMR, presenting to the human doctor only information pertinent to this particular diagnosis. Ouch.

On the other side of town, ONC is busy apologizing for the sorry state of what it calls “interoperability”, blaming everything from the lack of standards to people’s inability to agree on a restricted set of vocabularies for the medical profession. According to the ONC philosophy of interoperability, only “computable” data can be exchanged or analyzed in a meaningful way. [...]