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Can advanced computer systems help reduce medical errors?

Many people may have noticed that today's practice of medicine is very different from what it used to be. Connecticut residents who have recently visited their physicians to get some healthcare service may have noticed how ingrained medical technology is in clinics and hospitals with doctors using sophisticated technologies and even providing care remotely.

Generally, there has been an increase in hospitals adopting robotics to conduct surgery. In fact, IBM recently announced that Watson, a computerized system which was initially developed to compete on an episode of the hit TV show Jeopardy, will be getting a type of vision where Watson will be able to analyze medical images. Dubbed Watson Health, IBM hopes that Watson Health capabilities merged with other healthcare technologies can assist doctors in making the right clinical decisions in patient care.

Additionally, Watson Health will also be able to get critical patient health information by looking at not only medical images but also information contained in the patient's electronic health record. Given the alleged capabilities of Watson, it is only rational to ask oneself if such medical technologies actually help reduce doctor errors and improve the quality of healthcare that patients receive.

According to IBM, as Watson Health evolves and its abilities improve, the quality of care will improve and potentially reduce medical errors particularly in the medical field of radiology where most, if not all, of the interpretation and analysis of images is done manually. Watson on the other hand can analyze all the patient information such as past and present health information, and radiographs to identify any changes or anomalies.

The use of artificial intelligence such as IBM's Watson to provide healthcare and analyze patient health information is fascinating. Though the hope is that medical errors will be reduced by implementing powerful computing such as Watson Health and other similar technologies, undue reliance on such technology is not error free and mistakes can happen.

Source: mHealth Intelligence, "Medical Technologies, Robotics May Improve Radiology Imaging," Vera Gruessner, Aug. 10, 2015

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