Published in AI

IBM's Watson still not Dr House yet

by on26 July 2018

Made a few mistakes

Hopes that AI might prove useful in medical diagnosis have received a bit of a set back after it was found that IBM's Watson supercomputer had been coming up with "multiple examples of unsafe and incorrect treatment recommendations".

According to a report from Stat News, internal IBM documents show that medical experts working with the company's Watson supercomputer found "multiple examples of unsafe and incorrect treatment recommendations" when using the software.

Those documents provided strong criticism of the Watson for Oncology system, and stated that the "often inaccurate" suggestions made by the product bring up "serious questions about the process for building content and the underlying technology".

One example in the documents is the case of a 65-year-old man diagnosed with lung cancer, who also seemed to have severe bleeding. Watson reportedly suggested the man be administered both chemotherapy and the drug "Bevacizumab".

But the drug can lead to "severe or fatal hemorrhage," according to a warning on the medication, and therefore shouldn't be given to people with severe bleeding, as Stat points out.

A Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center spokesperson told Stat that it believed this recommendation was not given to a real patient, and was just a part of system testing.

According to the report, the documents blame the training provided by IBM engineers and on doctors at MSK, which partnered with IBM in 2012 to train Watson to "think" more like a doctor.

The documents state that -- instead of feeding real patient data into the software -- the doctors were reportedly feeding Watson hypothetical patients data, or "synthetic" case data. This would mean it's possible that when other hospitals used the MSK-trained Watson for Oncology, doctors were receiving treatment recommendations guided by MSK doctors' treatment preferences, instead of an AI interpretation of actual patient data. And the results seem to be less than desirable for some doctors.

Last modified on 26 July 2018
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