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IT companies work to develop medical diagnostic algorithms

Some Iowa residents may recall an IBM computer called Watson beating several former champions on the popular game show 'Jeopardy!" in 2011, but they may not know that a modified version of Watson was unable to replicate this success when it went up against a group of doctors the following year. Technology experts have long predicted that algorithms will one day replace human judgement in the area of medical diagnoses, but recent studies indicate that machines are not yet ready to take on these duties.

One of the chief obstacles facing technology companies is a lack of accepted benchmarks to measure the performance of their software against. Algorithms are also only accurate when they are provided with sufficient amounts of quality data, and the subject of training doctors to use these tools more effectively was discussed at length during the ninth annual Diagnostic Error in Medicine Conference, which concluded on Nov. 8.

While common and easy to identify ailments may not present doctors or diagnostic machines with much of a challenge, the approximately 7,000 known rare diseases certainly do. Some experts believe that as many as 1,000 additional diseases will be identified by 2020, which could cause problems for even the most talented and experienced of physicians. This is the area of medicine where technology is expected to shine, and several leading IT companies are compiling large databases of patient information to prepare to meet the challenge.

A delayed or incorrect diagnosis can have catastrophic consequences, and patients may pursue civil remedies when their treatment failed to live up to accepted medical standards. Attorneys with medical malpractice law experience could explain the steps involved in seeking legal satisfaction to the victims of doctor errors, and they may also assess the merits of a potential lawsuit and outline the challenges involved in pursuing it.

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