Doctor Google helps real medical doctors diagnose

Information age maven Ray Kurzweil has predicted that computers will continue to exceed human capabilities in many arenas, including the medical.

Already real medical doctors have put keywords into Google search and found that a quick study of the first results leads to real diagnosis.

Of course, at this point, humans are interpreting computerized results and not the reverse ... but if Kurzweil's prediction holds, it's only a matter of time before the arrow points in both directions.

"In one case described in The New England Journal of Medicine, a doctor astonished her colleagues, who included an eminent professor, by correctly diagnosing Ipex (immunodeficiency, polyendocrinopathy, enteropathy, X-linked) syndrome.

It just "popped right out" after she entered the salient features into Google, she admitted. Two Australian doctors have now put Google to a sterner test, using 26 cases from the case records section of the journal.

This is a regular feature in which the symptoms of a tricky case are described and readers are asked to come up with a diagnosis.

Hangwi Tang and Jennifer Hwee Kwoon Ng, doctors at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, in Brisbane, simply entered words from the case records into Google. The words reflected the symptoms described, and for each case they picked between three and five.

They then looked at the first three pages of the Google output -- thirty items -- and chose what seemed to be the most plausible of the diagnoses offered. In 58 per cent of the cases, Google came up with the right answer, or at least the same answer as given in the journal."

But can a computer or robot perform the pulse diagnosis of traditional oriental medicine or Tibetan medicine? Can a computer or robot recognize subtle energies, perform energy healing (laying on of hands), detect spiritual realities (even if a spiritual machine), or correctly insert acupuncture needles with the required depth and sensitivity?


Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen offers general corporate legal services, litigation consultation, and expertise in health law, with a unique focus on alternative, complementary, and integrative medical therapies.

Michael H. Cohen is also President of the the Institute for Integrative and Energy Medicine, also known as the Institute for Health, Ethics, Law, Policy & Society. The Institute serves as a reliable forum for investigation and recommendations regarding the legal, regulatory, ethical, and health policy issues involved in the judicious integration of complementary and alternative medical therapies (such as acupuncture and traditional oriental medicine, chiropractic, massage therapy, herbal medicine) and conventional clinical care.

The most recent book written by Michael H. Cohen on health care law, regulation, ethics and policy pertaining to complementary and alternative medicine and related fields is an interdisciplinary collection of essays entitled, Healing at the Borderland of Medicine and Religion. This is the fourth book in a series, the first being Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Legal Boundaries and Regulatory Perspectives (1998).