Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Helping your doctor when he is stumped - using AI to make a difficult diagnosis

If you are unlucky and have a complex problem, you may find that your doctor is stuck and may not be able to make the right diagnosis. When doctors are stumped, they often order more tests, or ask their colleagues and specialists for help. However, if this fails to resolve the problem, you might want to suggest to your doctor ( tactfully, of course !), that he may want to use an expert system to help him with making a diagnosis. Medical expert systems use artificial intelligence, and two of these systems are robust and have been proven to be useful in clinical practise. The oldest system is Dxplain, a decision support system, and was pioneered at the Massachusetts General Hospital. It is available online at Merck Medicus. The new kid on the block is Isabel and this
gives the clinician a reasonable and relevant list of likely diagnoses for a given set of clinical features (symptoms, signs, results of tests and investigations).
. These systems can be extremely useful, but unfortunately, most doctors are still not aware of them , which is why they are still very under-used. Merck Medicus is free for all doctors in the US; while Isabel charges a subscription fee for access.

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