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Tom Toles
Posted at 07:15 AM ET, 12/06/2012

It was the best of stories, the worst of stories

The blessing and curse of popular media is they take a look at what is going on in the world and let you know about it in interesting and completely jumbled-up ways.

Here’s one about a coming change in medical practice that absolutely WILL revolutionize the delivery of medical care, and like the ongoing ROBOT REVOLUTION, is going largely unreported and undiscussed. It is a story that is SORT OF about the advances in computerized diagnosis, the transformative revolution in question, largely buried in a story that features the last of the the great human diagnosticians, hero of the Old Way. The Wizdoc of Diagnosis, The John Henry of Housecalls. Gurpreet Dhaliwal can still get the the hardest ones, and this has about as much to do with the doctor who is diagnosing YOUR condition as Garry Kasparov has to do with diagnosing a Deep Blue skin color.

Stories like this always seem to want to root for, surprise, the human, and play up the glitches and deficiencies in the rapidly advancing technology. Usually missing is any quantitative analysis of how the technology currently over- or under-performs in actual match-ups with non-phenoms. But all of that is irrelevant. If you understand the factors involved in medical diagnosis, including most of the subtle, ‘intuitive’ ones, and especially the obscure ones, you know that the vast bulk of them are PRECISELY what computers are good at. And therefore diagnositic programs will shortly be able to outperform virtually any doctor. Since diagnosis is a huge part of what doctors are selling, this will and should transform the training, certification, practice and costs (and results) of medicine. Every effort will be made to delay this, as a lot of interests are involved. But the diagnosis is in. Only the filling of the prescription remains.

By  |  07:15 AM ET, 12/06/2012

 
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