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AI Medicine Robotics

Computers Shown To Be Better Than Docs At Diagnosing, Prescribing Treatment 198

Posted by Soulskill
from the boop-beep-you-have-cancer-boop-beep dept.
Lucas123 writes "Applying the same technology used for voice recognition and credit card fraud detection to medical treatments could cut healthcare costs and improve patient outcomes by almost 50%, according to new research. Scientists at Indiana University found that using patient data with machine-learning algorithms can drastically improve both the cost and quality of healthcare through simulation modeling.The artificial intelligence models used for diagnosing and treating patients obtained a 30% to 35% increase in positive patient outcomes, the research found. This is not the first time AI has been used to diagnose and suggest treatments. Last year, IBM announced that its Watson supercomputer would be used in evaluating evidence-based cancer treatment options for physicians, driving the decision-making process down to a matter of seconds."
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Computers Shown To Be Better Than Docs At Diagnosing, Prescribing Treatment

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  • Modern luddites (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MPAB (1074440) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:06PM (#42889381)

    An expected outcome. First machines become good and cheap at performing manual labor, then it's lowly qualified jobs such as sorting stuff or basic accounting.
    In a few years, liberal professions will fall. Our salaries (I'm a doctor) have been diving as more and more people around the world can afford a career and achieve a good enough level to perform as a doctor or an engineer.
    Creative and risk-taking careers will resist for a longer time.
    We can hope for a future of working machines and humans enjoying themselves. The other option will be cheap-ass humans with no way of earning a living whatsoever.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:07PM (#42889407)

    I'm sure this is not what diagnosticians would like to consider, but I think the simple truth is that computers will negate our need for human diagnosis in the very near future. I'm sure we'll hear the same "The computers will be great *assistance* to actual doctors" but I don't think that's actually true. I know the computer is likely doing a better job, there should possibly be a few overseers but the vast majority of doctors shouldn't be needed, and frankly I wouldn't want them second guessing what's likely to be a much more accurate and unbiased diagnosis given by the machine.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joh (27088) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:14PM (#42889483)

    The problem is not in the decision making process, but in the fact finding process. THIS is the part computers and software are still very, very poor at.

  • Re:Modern luddites (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:16PM (#42889515)

    except software and hardware designers. which is why i'm both. ;)

    but seriously, do you really think that's what the future will look like? all evidence from the past shows that as technology gets better, the amount of good jobs goes *up* not down. i don't see any reason why this would change. we're a LONG ways away from having machines do absolutely everything for us.

  • GIGO (Score:4, Insightful)

    by erice (13380) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:26PM (#42889623) Homepage

    An expert system is only as good as the information it is fed. Until we get machines that can quickly scan a human body and tell us everything there is to know about it, we will still need doctors to talk to patients, vet what they say, observe what didn't mention and ask followup questions.

  • Re:Modern luddites (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Garridan (597129) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:38PM (#42889749)
    Meh. You can be replaced by sufficiently advanced algorithms. I'm mathematician, FFS. There are already automated theorem provers which can solve undergrad-level problems. As computers evolve, they'll be just as good as people and loads cheaper than people at everything we do, up to and including the creation of art.

    If we progress to the point where all of our jobs can be done by computers... what should we do? At the point where artificial intelligence becomes genuine intelligence, it will rapidly outpace human intelligence. This is evolution. We are breeding our replacements.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:46PM (#42889837)

    The problem with doctors is their ego. Being a nurse for quite some time Ive seen countless doctors come through the hospital that do not treat a patient properly, ignore patient complaints, dont treat problems aggresively enough, are too passive, and so on and the vast majority of them refuse to do otherwise because of their ego. They are doctors, no one should question them and they hate it when you do and when you do they dig their heels in and dont budge. Doctors are also human so they get tired of their job, they get lazy, they stop caring after awhile, they worry more about what they will do later than the problem at hand, they stay up too late.

    Ive also seen countless times people who swear by these doctors and will accuse of them of fault simply because the doctor has been nice to them. A doctor who is friendly can do no wrong in a patients eyes. Or a patient has some common problem that even a moron could treat, then when the doctor fixes them suddenly they become godlike.

    Personally I would trust the diagnosis of a machine that has more information programmed into it than a thousand doctors do collectively from allover the world.

    A machine can be a doctor because thats how doctors are trained, they are trained to be machines. They treat the problem, they do not treat the person. Treating the person is a nurses job. And treating the problem is simply nothing more than deduction. If patient has multiple problems then you take those numbers and it will lead you to the correct answer. Thats all being a doctor is, you look at the signs and symptoms, then you add them alltogether and you get the answer as to what the cause is. Its all a forumla and nothing more, there is no great mystery to it.

  • Same old objection (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pclminion (145572) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:55PM (#42889933)
    Apart from doctors who will understandably not want to be rendered obsolete (and they won't be -- the computer can only prescribe a treatment, not administer it!), the main objection that would be raised to this is "What if the computer makes a mistake?" For some reason, people are really bad at understanding that even though the computer might make a mistake, it will make mistakes at a lower rate than a human. This is the same problem with computer-driven automobiles. Yes, the computer might screw something up and kill somebody, but this should happen at a much lower rate than caused by human drivers -- however, because the rate isn't EXACTLY ZERO it is seen as completely unacceptable, even though this is an irrational position to maintain.
  • by CannonballHead (842625) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:13PM (#42890127)

    ... is that the computer doesn't have, literally, hands-on experience.

    For example... you have stomach pain. Okay. Where? Does this hurt? Does it hurt if I poke this? Do you have a fever? How high? ("Oh, I don't know, maybe XX" ...)...

    In other words, you still need someone who *knows* what to do to help diagnose simply to *get* the information. You need someone trained to know where to poke, where to tap, where to see if something hurts. And then, of course, to try to wheedle the real information out rather than the confusing answers patients (note that I am not a doctor, I am a patient) give. :)

    As a diagnostic tool, I think it would be a huge benefit. An individual simply can't keep up to date on everything, don't know everything, and can't research everything. Having a diagnostic tool that *does* do all that would be a huge benefit. There would be options and diagnoses that perhaps the doctor had not thought about. Additionally, the diagnostic tool - I hope! - would not just say "Oh, it's this" but would perhaps say "Well, it could be this, and you need to find out this information first ... or it could be this, and for that you need to do these tests..."

    The idea that a patient, combined with a non-trained non-doctor, can somehow come up with all the right answers/information and a machine can simply diagnose it on the spot seems like a very simplistic view. Perhaps that works with colds, the flu, or warts... but for more complex things... it seems diagnoses tend to work on a "it could be this; let's do more specific tests to find out if it is" type of investigation.

  • Re:Mycin (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:15PM (#42890143)

    Why haven't these things been combined?

    Who could possibly be opposed to cheap, automated healthcare?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:31PM (#42890313)

    Cars with human drivers are the only ones that suddenly swerves from the opposing traffic lane in front of you. And at least 1/4 of the time, those human drivers are drunk too! And quickly getting more than 1/4 of them distracted on their cell phones, as if one can read phone texts and type while they drive!

    I'd take my chances with a computer controlling a car any day over the current system of allowing human drivers who daily make mistakes and kill 40,000+ Americans PER YEAR on the highways and streets!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:44PM (#42891017)
    Haha, spoken like a true bitter nurse. Believe me, as a physician, there are plenty of my colleagues with huge egos. Definitely. And with many diagnoses, they are indeed bread and butter, no-brainer treatment algorithms. But to generalize and say that applies to all patients, with all conditions, and there is no underlying mystery or art ever, is just well... quite far off the mark. Especially in a tertiary care referral center where all the rare and complicated cases come.
  • Re:Modern luddites (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @01:01AM (#42892503)


    We are breeding our new bodies. Those who expected a more corporeal form of "godlike immortality" will be disappointed perhaps, but we won't be overrun by "the machines" or "robot overlords" or whatever such nonsense. We will be integrating our tools to augment our selves. The mechanical and electronic prostheses we've been perfecting will eventually cease to be separate -- by design. No dissolution a la the Borg from pulp sci-fi horror, rather, the ultimate self-actualization via liberation from the confines of un-designed evolution.

    That's what "post-biological" means. Not that evolution has stopped, that we will be actually controlling it rather than letting it happen "by chance", as it were. Humans have always sought more control over their destinies. Why be satisfied with what uncaring Mother Nature stuck you with if you don't have to?

    More worrisome is that our, for lack of a better word, spiritual evolution is not progressing at the same rate. We still have very real problems in the various areas of morality, politics and economy to iron out. They will only be more complicated and obscured when scarcity ceases to be a real thing or if the ideologies of the 1950s continue to haunt us.

    To say nothing of the ideologies of 1 A.D.

    We have paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology. The former two are problems all by themselves, but combined with the last, there is real potential for catastrophe. The solution is obvious: do something about the first two problems!

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