[ Wednesday, July 12, 2006 ]


Instapundit on technology in medicine: Again, not exactly on topic, but an interesting discussion on the potential encroachment of technology into medicine, via my blogfather.

One interesting point: most doctors love tech gadgets. The first person I ever saw with one of those clip-on-your-ear Uhura-style cell phones was a spine surgeon client of mine. (I thought he was talking to himself, actually.) Doctors love tablet PCs, PDAs, were early adopters of cell phones (obvious tag-ons to pagers), etc. And there is in fact a ton of technology in medicine, from development of pharmaceuticals to imaging equipment to monitoring equipment to computerized modeling on the sub-molecular level in research. But in a whole lot of ways, the prime asset of the practice of medicine is still the doctor's brain.

Take radiology, for instance. One of the online radiology news and comment sites is called "Aunt Minnie." I never knew why; I figured it was a nickname for some organization like the Association for Medical and Nuclear Imaging (AMNI). But when I asked a radiologist who Aunt Minnie was, he explained that the phrase was an old radiology example: when a medical student or resident asks how you know that the x-ray you're looking at is a particular thing, say an embolism, the answer is because it looks like an embolism. The question "what does an embolism look like" is answered by "it looks like an embolism." You know what an embolism looks like just like you know what your Aunt Minnie looks like. That implies that radiology interpretation is more art than science.

But as computing capacity increases, there is in fact some way to "define" Aunt Minnie's look to algorithms and binary properties. If facial scanning technologies can pick Aunt Minnie out of the crowd at the Superbowl, then similar technology could be injected into radiology to do a preliminary read or overread.

Obviously, there are similar potential technology applications in other areas of medicine. Interesting stuff. But the other side of the coin is that we want to rely on doctors' intuition most of the time. The computer might say it's a horse, even though it is a zebra.

Jeff [10:36 AM]

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