The real House, M.D.

It turns out that Dr. Greg House exists, and his name is actually Gurpreet Dhaliwal. No kidding. An article in today’s New York Times describes Dr. Dhaliwal’s savant-like ability for diagnostics…

To observe him at work is like watching Steven Spielberg tackle a script or Rory McIlroy a golf course. He was given new information bit by bit — lab, imaging and biopsy results. Over the course of the session, he drew on an encyclopedic familiarity with thousands of syndromes. He deftly dismissed red herrings while picking up on clues that others might ignore, gradually homing in on the accurate diagnosis.

Dr. Dhaliwal regularly receives cases from physicians who are stumped by a set of symptoms. At medical conferences, he is presented with one vexingly difficult case and is given 45 minutes to solve it. It is a medical high-wire act; doctors in the audience squirm as the set of facts gets more obscure and all the diagnoses they were considering are ruled out. After absorbing and processing scores of details, Dr. Dhaliwal must commit to a diagnosis. More often than not, he is right.

…and uses it to make comparisons to computer software currently in development that could eventually be used to diagnose patients, or at least provide greater help to doctors in doing so.

The history of computer-assisted diagnostics is long and rich. In the 1970s, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh developed software to diagnose complex problems in general internal medicine; the project eventually resulted in a commercial program called Quick Medical Reference. Since the 1980s, Massachusetts General Hospital has been developing and refining DXplain, a program that provides a ranked list of clinical diagnoses from a set of symptoms and laboratory data.

And I.B.M., on the heels of its triumph last year with Watson, the Jeopardy-playing computer, is working on Watson for Healthcare.

The full article can be found here. Worth reading.

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