Two years ago we all watched as Ken Jennings, the winningest player in the history of Jeopardy, was soundly defeated by IBM’s Watson supercomputer. Since then, IBM has managed to shrink Watson from the size of a master bedroom to a server the size of a pizza box. Incredibly, this was done while increasing Watson’s processing speed by 240%. We know what you are thinking…why is a court reporter in Louisville, Kentucky writing an article about the rise of our soon-to-be robot overlords? The reason is simple, Watson conquered Jeopardy and has moved on to the world of health insurance utilization management. The implications for court reporters and medical malpractice attorneys could be profound.
As reported by Forbes on February 8, 2013, IBM has partnered with Memorial Sloan-Kettering and Wellpoint to provide healthcare providers with Watson’s expertise in deciding how to treat lung cancer patients. As everyone with a passing knowledge of the medical malpractice field knows, doctors and nurses are drowning in information with new research, genetic data, treatments and procedures popping up daily. Each new development changes the prevailing standard of care and medical providers are constantly at risk of falling behind.
WellPoint’s chief medical officer reported that health care professionals make accurate treatment decisions in lung cancer treatments only 50% of the time. Frankly, this court reporter was shocked. If our transcripts were only correct 50% of the time, we would be out of business. Watson has shown the capability (on the utilization management side) of being accurate 90% of the time. Of course, our court reporting transcripts are accurate 99.99% of the time, but enough about us. Patients need 100% accuracy and Watson offers a huge improvement over current options. Moreover, Watson will be able to distribute intelligence anywhere via the cloud, right to the point of care. This could be the most powerful tool the world has ever seen for improving care and lowering costs via standardization and reduced error. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic’s executive director for innovations said that he expects Watson to be widely deployed wherever the Clinic does business by 2020.
The question this must raise for attorneys in the medical malpractice field is: how will Watson change the standard of care? If Watson is universally deployed and begins prescribing treatment modalities across the field of medicine, what is a doctor to do? Consult Watson, of course. If Watson is guiding all physicians in a particular field then Watson is, essentially, the standard of care. Will litigation devolve into simply asking whether the physician asked Watson? It is yet to be seen but Watson is a truly amazing development.
If Watson does eliminate the discretion the drives many medical malpractice cases, he might just take a huge portion of the court reporting industry with it. Medical Malpractice litigation constitutes the largest portion of court reporting work in Louisville and in most parts of the United States. Court reporters, like attorneys, must continue to adapt their services to the rapidly changing industry. Here at Kentuckiana Court Reporters, we are employing new services such as internet streaming, rough video, smartphone apps and low-cost, highly accurate digital reporting to open new markets. In short, the future is uncertain but very bright. The bottom line is that there will always be a place for highly skilled court reporters and attorneys even after Watson cures cancer.