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The Future of High-Tech Health Care — and the Challenge (New York Times)

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At a meeting last Friday at the Computer Museum in Mountain View, Calif., industry experts gathered to talk about the high-tech future of health care. The technologies on display were impressive, including wearable-robots, or mechanical exoskeletons, made by Ekso Bionics, to enable people with spinal cord injuries to walk again; or I.B.M.’s Watson question-answering computer that is being morphed into a doctors’ smart assistant. The core transferable technology, explained Dr. Martin Kohn, chief medical scientist at I.B.M. research, was the artificial intelligence software that made it possible for Watson to read and understand 200 million digital pages, and deliver an answer within three seconds. Watson, said Kohn, is not going to make diagnoses, but will make suggestions, recommendations and determine probabilities. One area where the technology’s learning and recommendation capabilities may be particularly useful is in determining treatment regimens for patients with more than one chronic condition. At the moment, such patients account for a large share of the nation’s health care costs.