In response to Meet Watson, Your Doctor in a Pizza-Size Box, reader Robert writes …
Watson was most likely named for Thomas J. Watson, first president of the modern IBM company, not Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick.
It will be interesting to see how Watson makes out. CAD (Computer Aided Diagnosis) is not new, and has been around for at least 15 years. 2nd read Mammography has been the first area of CAD, but lung cancer has been targeted as well. Raw computing power is not the issue, algorithms that can differentiate patterns are.
Computers and humans (to date) provide somewhat complementary skills, with computers providing good sensitivity but often poor specificity (high false positive rates) although this area is improving. We’ll see what Watson can do.
I think a more interesting application would be rapid blood chemistry analysis, and DNA analysis (eg. analyzing and categorizing foreign DNA in the blood) which would give much earlier tests for cancer and other disease, even before a patient presents with symptoms and imaging studies are conducted.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock