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Computers Better than the Docs?

Doctor examining an X-ray film.Regular readers will know, or have guessed, that I think the future of healthcare lies with computer diagnosis and intervention and the human touch. Machines will be able to calculate and infer more reliably, efficiently and accurately than us, but it will be a long time before they exceed us in empathy and in detecting non-verbal or numerical signs to our fellows's state of health.

In a study by Swiss researchers, neural networks exceeded humans in predicting epoetin responsiveness in treating anaemia in patients on dialysis. The study concludes: "In predicting the erythropoietin dose required for an individual patient and the monthly dose adjustments ANNs are superior to nephrologists' opinion. Thus, ANN may be a useful and promising tool that could be implemented in clinical wards to help nephrologists in prescribing erythropoietin."

Computers can also help in the detection of breast cancer. The Journal of Radiology reports that computers may also be more efficient and accurate in detecting breast cancer. One expert assisted by a computer could do the job just as well as two, speeding up screening for women who have waited for longer than three years. Read the BBC's report.


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