Are computers coming for your job? IBM's Watson, a super computer powered with artificial intelligence, will have the medical profession looking over their shoulders after correctly diagnosing a patient within minutes – something doctors failed to do after months.
A female patient suffering from leukaemia had been baffling medical professionals from Japan after treatment and all previous treatment being prescribed for the condition was proving ineffective. It was a mystery for doctors. The team with no other ideas on what to do decided to call in IBM's Watson for help and it proved to be a life-saving move.
The mighty machine spent just ten minutes studying the patient's medical information and was able to cross-reference her condition against 20 million oncological records, which had been uploaded to its system by doctors from the University of Tokyo's Institute of Medical Science.
It discovered the patient actually had a varying form of leukaemia than first diagnosed and told doctors it required different treatment. According to a report by Silicon Angle the new treatment proved far more effective than original methods.
While we won't see robot doctors and nurses scooting around hospitals just yet this case does offer a glimpse of how artificial intelligence could play a major part to assist GPs and medics in the very near future.
Being able to spot a disease and deliver the correct diagnosis is crucial to the treatment and, in some cases, survival. With super computers like Watson being able to store vast volumes of data and information – for instance every medical journal, symptom, and case studies of treatment and response – it would be able to rapidly analyse conditions and eliminate instances of mis-diagnosis.
Watson is a revolutionary computer that uses cognitive computing, meaning it 'thinks' more naturally, and can provide smarter answers from large amounts of unstructured data. Its system is fed millions of documents on a subject and uses machine learning to identify questions its being asked to work out the most logical answer. Watson has shown off its talent at everything from winning quiz shows to designing dresses and help fight cybercriminals.
IBM isn't the only computer to don a white coat after Microsoft's Bing search engine was able to identify individuals suffering from prostate cancer by analysing their search history and using big data to cross examine. This level of intelligence could lead to providing early warning flags for those unaware of the severity of their complaint.
Google also announced earlier this year that its search function would be able to aid people to trying to self-diagnose by offering advice based on a vast database of medical information backed up by Harvard Medical School and the Mayo Clinic.
Medical professionals shouldn't be wary. The use of big data and artificial intelligence in the medical field has the potential to be a revolutionary move that will save doctors time, help streamline appointments and, most importantly, help save lives.