I want Watson. You may know Watson, it is the super fast speed reading, odds setting, wiz of a computer that can understand complex questions and provide answers graded according to their probability of being correct, in mere seconds. Just ask the world champions at Jeopardy, they know all about Watson.
As a health care consumer, I don’t care about answers to Jeopardy question, I want the information that IBM’s Watson can provide about rare diseases. Certainly, I don’t expect to access it personally, nor do I care if it provides me information in mere seconds, a few days or even weeks would be fine with me. But my imagination spins at the idea that Watson could sift through every published piece of medical information to answer difficult medical questions.
Currently, Wellpoint, one of the United Sates’ largest health insuring companies is planning to add Watson to its already formidable compilation of medical data, which may be a tremendous step forward for their clients. But I want Watson available to my doctors, without an insurance company acting as a gatekeeper. In fact, I want it available to all physicians or medical researchers around the globe, who wish to use it in order to help them better understand their most complex patients or for clues to understanding complex research questions.
Here is why I want Watson. I have a complex neurological disorder that qualifies me to wear the label of a person with an orphan disease. In the 8 years I have been sick, no physician has ever treated anyone like me nor seen any reference to someone with my combination of symptoms in the medical literature. I am truly orphan even among those with orphan diseases.
Somewhere in this world, I believe there exists someone like me, someone who had a sudden onset movement disorder with no known cause other than it is related to the immune system. I believe Watson can find that person(s) and my physicians can learn from him or her. I also imagine a “Wiki Watson” where medical and research information can be updated as soon as it is available, even before it is published.
In the Watson world I desire, I see rapidly shrinking medical unknowns, where people with heretofore rare, or “orphan” diseases will find themselves less rare. In my Watson world, more information can be applied to better diagnosis or treatment, not only for an individual, but for the next person to be told that they are an “orphan” and because of this label, nothing can be done.