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IBM Watson is the Stethoscope of the 21st Century

In 2011, people witnessed an interesting competition on the television quiz show Jeopardy. It featured the two best players in the history of the show, Ken Jennings, who had the longest unbeaten run of 74 winning appearances, and Brad Rutter, who had earned the biggest prize of $3.25 million. Their opponent was a huge computer with over 750 servers and a cooling system stored at a location so as not to disturb the players. The room–sized machine was made by IBM and named after the company’s founder, Thomas J. Watson. It did not smile or show emotion, but it kept on giving good answers. At the end, Watson won the game with $77,147 leaving Rutter and Jennings with $21,600 and $24,000 respectively.

Cognitive computers have been developing rapidly over the last few years following three technological breakthroughs. One is cheap parallel computation due to a new kind of chip called a graphics processing unit (GPU). The second one is accessible big data due to massive databases, web cookies, wearable devices and decades of search results. The third one is building better algorithms due to the services of Netflix, Google, Amazon and the others.


From Stethoscope to Cognitization

People, especially in medicine, do not like change. Moreover, after many of my talks, physician colleagues ask me whether artificial intelligence (AI) might replace them in their jobs and whether algorithms can eventually become better at making diagnoses. Both will happen but the job of physicians will transform into a new role because of that. They finally have more time to deal with patients instead of chasing the information they would need. They will get access to that immediately. Cognitive computers will help physicians diagnose the same way stethoscope could change the medical profession from the early 19th century when René Laennec developed a wooden tube that worked like an ear trumpet to listen to cardiac and lung sounds.

The use of AI does not have to lead to the loss of the human touch. In 1997, IBM’s supercomputer Deep Blue could beat Garry Kasparov, the reigning chess grand master that time. He said he could have performed better if he had access to the same databases as Deep Blue. So later, freestyle matches were organized in which supercomputers could play against human chess players assisted by AI (they were called human/AI centaurs). Guess what! In 2014 in a Freestyle Battle, the AI chess players won 42 games, but centaurs won 53 games. The best potential pair is a human with technology. This is the only balance that can lead to a positive future with more and more disruptive innovations including ever-improving cognitive computing but an also ever-improving human intelligence and wisdom. This is the winning combination.

If AI can improve a chess player, it can improve a physician as well.

What even the most acclaimed professors know cannot match cognitive computers. As the amount of information they accumulate grows exponentially, the assistance of computing solutions in medical decisions is imminent. While a physician can keep a few dozen study results and papers in mind, IBM’s Watson can process millions of pages in seconds. This remarkable speed has led to trying Watson in oncology centers to see how helpful it is in making treatment decisions in cancer care. We need to prepare for its use but IBM has taken the first steps. Watson does not answer medical questions, but based on data it comes up with the most relevant and likely outcomes. Physicians make the final call. Computer assistance can only facilitate the work of physicians, not replace it. Just like how stethoscope did.

Read more stories about how artificial intelligence can impact medical decision-making in the new book, The Guide to the Future of Medicine.

NanoPlug: An invisible nano-tech hearing aid

I came across a very interesting project on about developing a really small hearing aid that could be a radical step towards improving the everyday lives of people with hearing problems. It’s time for hearing aids to become really small and comfortable.

As the founder of the company, Nevena Zivic told me, the tech industry is hard at work developing solutions for the 642 million people worldwide who complain of hearing loss. Yet only 23 percent of them with hearing loss use hearing aids due to 2 major reasons, social stigma and extremely expensive devices.

Nanoplug developed the world’s first 100% invisible, affordable, instant fit, user programmable hearing aid that helps a younger, hipper audience with hearing loss to solve their problem with embarrassment and social stigma using the latest nanotechnologies. An instant-charging nanobattery makes this hearing aid smaller than a coffee bean. The Nanoplug is the most radical thing to happen to hearing loss since the invention of the aid itself. The IGG page has a video and points on why Nanoplug is different.

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Tech Trends Shaping The Future Of Medicine: Forbes

Robert J. Szczerba (Rocket Scientist Re-Engineering Healthcare, X Tech Ventures CEO) published two articles featuring my new book, The Guide to the Future of Medicine, and the trends I think will shape the future in his Forbes column. Here are part one and two. Please share your comments on the article and let me know what you think.

Enormous technological changes in medicine and healthcare are heading our way.  These trends have a variety of stakeholders: patients, medical professionals, researchers, medical students, and consumers.  They are important because of the impact they will likely have on all of us at one time or another.  To get an overview of the trends in healthcare technology, we turned to Dr. Bertalan Meskó, medical futurist and author of The Guide to the Future of Medicine: Technology and the Human Touch.  In it, he identifies several areas that he believes will shape the future of medicine and healthcare for decades to come.

The Birth of Artificial Intelligence

What will future of medicine look like? Start here.

My article about trends shaping the future of medicine was just published on

Enormous technological changes are heading our way. If they hit us unprepared, which we are now, they will wash away the medical system we know and leave it a purely technology–based service without personal interaction. Such a complicated system should not be washed away. Rather, it should be consciously and purposefully redesigned piece by piece. If we are unprepared for the future, then we lose this opportunity.

Here is the list of the real examples and practical stories demonstrating why we should all be ready for these changes.


The Medical Futurist: Weekly Introduction

Working as a speaker and consultant with medical technology, pharmaceutical and web companies; as well as universities and governments worldwide, my mission as The Medical Futurist is to make sure the advances of technology lead to a better healthcare for everyone!


I publish a daily newsletter about the future of medicine, manage a popular Facebook page about the future; launched a Youtube channel and share related news almost every hour on Twitter.

Here is my new book, The Guide to the Future of Medicine:

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I’m also the author of Social Media in Clinical Practice handbookand the founder of, a service that curates medical content in social media for medical professionals and e-patients.

I launched The Social MEDia Course, the e-learning format of my university course focusing on medicine and social media for medical students, physicians and also patients with Prezis, tests and gamification.

I hope you will enjoy reading!

MakerNurse: Fabricating solutions to challenges on the front lines of care

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports MakerNurse, a community that aims to better understand what drives nurses to innovate and bring nurse making to the forefront of health care. See what they are up to.

MakerNurse is collecting stories from inventive nurses across the nation to better understand what drives them to innovate and how best to nurture the creative potential of the American nurse.

We have partnered with five health systems to learn more about MakerNurses in their hospitals and have received stories from dozens of nurses who have completed the MakerNurse survey. Share your story and sign up for updates.


Television Documentary about the Future of You

QUEST published a TV documentary about how the so-called wearable revolution will change how we live our lives. An excerpt:

Today, there are tens of thousands of health and fitness apps that consumers can download onto their smart phones and tablets. From tracking the calories you burn to helping manage your stress through guided meditation, these apps are proving to be popular: within the first six months of 2014, their use increased by more than 60 percent, according to one recent study.


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