One of the biggest problems facing doctors isn't patients' injuries or illnesses – it's the sheer quantity data. Most will spend more time going over medical records than actually dealing with their patients.
It's a problem that "AI doctors" could help address, with supercomputers processing information far faster and more efficiently. The problem, IBM's Kyu Rhee tells the crowd at WIRED Health, is trust.
"Studies have shown that if a doctor wears a stethoscope, you trust him or her more. But in 1816, Dr René Laennec, a French physician, was examining his patient, trying to listen to her heart sounds with his ears," said Rhee. "He took 40 pieces of paper, rolled it up, and created the first stethoscope."
Looking to the future, Rhee sees a "cognitive system" such as IBM's Watson supercomputer having a similar role to play in human healthcare. Such systems, he said, will become as ubiquitous as the humble stethoscope.
Rhee, who was a physician earlier in his career, recalls struggling with the sheer volume of data involved in treating patients. Worse, the data was presented, at the time, on reams of paper and charts. Throw in new materials and understanding generated by medical journals and it soon becomes a mountain of information that can hinder, rather than help.