IBM's Watson hasn't been in medical school long, but he already has two jobs. Teaming with the Cleveland Clinic, Big Blue researchers have developed WatsonPaths, a diagnosis and education project, and Watson EMR Assistant, a tool for delving deep into medical records.
WatsonPaths is the more ambitious of the two, drawing on question-answering skills acquired from its Jeopardy days to examine medical cases from all angles. It'll gather data from journals, texts and on-the-job training, helping doctors improve differential diagnoses and create better treatments. When first deployed, WatsonPaths will be used as a classroom training tool after physicians have decided what's wrong with a patient, but doctors can already see its real-world potential as a clinician.
Researchers are also taking advantage of Watson's natural language talents to scour medical records with the Watson EMR Assistant project. The goal is to analyze unstructured patient records -- which can easily pass 100MB over a patient's lifetime -- with "a deep semantic understanding of the content."
That'll take a lot of the grunt work out of parsing such data, letting physicians more easily see the relationship between clinical concerns, lab results and medications in order to provide better care. Despite all that prowess, Watson will mostly remain a learning tool and research project pending further development at the clinic. If the researchers are thinking primary care, however, they may want to bump its people skills.