Google screen cap One in 20 Google searches are for health-related information, giving the tech behemoth insight into things that we would never admit to a doctor.

Thanks to a combination of Google, WebMD and the $6,000 deductible on my health insurance, I haven’t been to a doctor to talk about an illness in years. Millions of Americans have similar habits; in fact, one in 20 Google searches are for health-related information. “Dr. Google” may not have an MD or a board certification, but it does have the clinical knowledge of a primary care provider who sees millions of patients a year.

With so much interest, it might be surprising how tentatively tech-driven efforts have entered the $3.5 trillion health care industry. After three years, IBM’s AI-driven Watson for Oncology not only had not delivered new insights on cancer treatments, but also in some instances even recommended unsafe and incorrect treatments. In fairness to Dr. Watson, it was working with the same scant medical records that limit human physicians. Artificial intelligence predictive capacity comes not from superior processing power itself, but from using that processing power to discover signals in vast quantities of data.

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