Monday, September 12, 2011

Elementary, My Dear Watson

Should Watson, IBM's artificial intellegence computer seen on Jeopardy, be classified as a medical device?

We should ask ourselves that question now, especially since your insurer might be using Watson to mine your electronic medical record to determine if your claim will be paid.

Wellpoint, one of the nation's largest insurers is joining forces with IBM to use Watson as a medical decision support tool:
The first Watson deployment would come early next year with WellPoint nurses who manage complex patient cases and review treatment requests from medical providers.
As such, shouldn't such a computer program be subject to the same rigors as the medical device industry to achieve FDA clearance? Would regulators even be able to comprehend how Watson reaches it's comclusions as it culls through "200 million pages of information in less than three seconds?"

Or will this device be grandfathered in under a 510K exemption? After all, it's just a computer right? Seriously, what could go wrong with clinical decisions based on cold, hard, incomplete data sets that are extrapolated to patients?

Wait, I know!

It's the Daily Double!



Laura said...

After watching a video about how Watson reaches his answers I'm able to determine this:

Watson could pose an amazing tool for health care but it could also mean that many patients could go without care.

Watson makes its decisions based on his confidence level on his answers. What about a patient that is so far out of the norm that Watson has no confidence at all? We keep learning how medicine reaches new milestones through error and sometimes even because they tried. I fear that these patients fall down the cracks.

Watson's superiority to human emotions could prove dangerous. Granted Watson wouldn't agree on a procedure because he likes the patient or he is emotionally invested. Would insurance companies eventually ignore all pleas from actual doctors because Watson's answer is best? Which protocols, if any, would be put in place in order to limit Watson power over medical decisions?

Tim Hulsey, MD said...

Surely it will cause some to have a headache or diarrhea! Don't they have to list all those things? There may not be enough server capacity for Watson with all the hackers in there mining our healthcare data!
Laura said, "What about a patient so far out of the norm... " All patients are the same. Haven't you been listening?
What happens when Watson asks for prescription privileges?