IBM’s Dr Watson will see you … someday

“It’s not just a technology problem. It’s a social, clinical, policy, ethical, and institutional problem.” 


Illustration: Tavis Coburn

Robert Wachter*

Watson, whatever its theoretical potential, is deployed in the all-too-human—and often all-too-inhuman—reality of modern health care. Watson can’t make up for the shortage in primary-care physicians or restore the crucial doctor-patient bond lost in an era of 5-minute office visits.

Most fundamentally, Watson alone can’t change the fee-for-service reimbursement structure, common in the United States, which makes the quantity of care—the number of tests, treatments, and specialist visits—more profitable than bottom-line quality.

* Robert Wachter is a specialist in hospital medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and author of The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age)

Source: IEEE Spectrum