IBMs Watson supercomputer goes to medical school

The machine gained fame when it beat two human contestants on the US quiz show Jeopardy last year. Its technology will now be put to a more practical use helping students to consider challenging cases and offering potential diagnoses. But some critics say the information artificial intelligence (AI) systems draw on is flawed.
IBM’s announcement marks the US firm’s latest effort to develop its product for the healthcare sector. Watson is already involved in another project with a New York-based cancer centre, and is also being tested by health insurance provider Wellpoint to tailor treatments and claims forms for its members.
IBM believes the medical sector is one of the areas it will be able to make money from its artificial intelligence system. Others include customer service hotlines and the financial investment industry Watson is designed to "understand" natural language requests and then access vast quantities of unstructured data to find the best answers to questions. In a healthcare scenario this would involve analysing both patient records and medical literature.
Watson has been designed to create a list of potential answers to a medic’s request, rank them in order of likelihood and then present the most likely solutions along with information about how confident it is of their likelihood. IBM said it would be used at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine to help students evaluate medical case scenarios and find evidence to support their judgements.