Medical Diagnosis: Art, Science - or Both?
As medical tools and record-keeping go electronic, the software industry is adapting artificial-intelligence and expert-systems capabilities to help solve medical problems. A recent WSJ [free!] article presented the pros and cons of diagnostic-decision support software (DDS). Due to a combination of skepticism, high cost, and unwieldy or time-consuming software interfaces, only 2% of US doctors currently use such programs.
Still, there are signs that these diagnostic systems may gradually gain a wider following. The increased use of personal digital assistants, or PDAs, and other handheld computers by doctors could boost the market for diagnostic software. More than half of U.S. doctors use one of these devices regularly, according to a study by the American Medical Association and Forrester Research Inc. of Cambridge, Mass.
And some DDS programs, including Isabel [CNN article], can be used on PDAs as well as desktops. Doctors may be more favorably inclined toward these programs if they don't have to be tied to their desks to use the software. Meanwhile, some makers of diagnostic programs are trying to address doctors' financial concerns. The home page for Isabel Healthcare, for example, has an "ROI calculator" that doctors can click on to consider the potential return on an investment in Isabel -- including the possibility of avoiding malpractice cases.