In IBM's future, Watson will be your doctor

The supercomputer will crunch your medical images and your records to work out what's wrong with you.

IBM Watson Health

IBM is working on a way to make its Watson supercomputer a far more effective medical tool for flesh-and-blood doctors. The company wants to use the platform to analyze medical imaging data to learn what a healthy set of insides looks like. It should then be able to identify when things have gone awry in scan images to direct doctors toward areas of concern. If this data is merged with each patient's medical records, it could mean faster and more effective treatment for serious conditions.

The company is desperate to turn a profit on all of the money it's crammed into selling Watson as a general-purpose supercomputing tool. The only problem is that is that IBM thinks every issue in the world can be solved with big data, but here it may actually work. After all, other companies are trying similar things -- including Zebra Medical Vision, which does the same job with X-ray images. That firm is also letting patients upload their own CT scans and mammograms for a big data second opinion.

One of the systems that IBM is developing is a "physician support tool," that seems to take much of the mental leg-work away from doctors. If a patient is diagnosed with a tumor, Watson will pull together data from various sources to develop a personalized health care plan. Another system will help emergency rooms detect a brain bleed by cross-checking scan data with their historical records to spot patterns. Although there's always a worry that Google -- via its DeepMind AI -- may have won the hearts and minds of clinicians across the world.