You have probably heard about IBM’s “Watson” computer winning a million bucks playing “Jeopardy” on TV. Now the Big Blue champion is turning to health care.

Watson will listen when a patient describes their symptoms, and then help the doctor reach the correct diagnosis. (Bob recalls that something very similar was done around 30 years ago, using a computer to diagnose a patient’s illness. The study found that the computer’s diagnosis was far more accurate than doctors’. This does not necessarily mean that doctors are stupid, he notes, but that humans can forget to ask key questions that would help in reaching the correct diagnosis, while the computer never forgets.)

WellPoint Inc. a giant company that operates BlueCross BlueShield programs, is creating a Watson application that will combine data from a patient’s chart and electronic records with the insurance company’s history of medicines and treatments and an enormous library of textbooks and medical journals. Any doctor with a computer, tablet or smartphone will be able to use it. The app will roll out next year in a pilot program at university medical centers.

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