"Please state the nature of the medical emergency."
What would happen if you could fix the computing power problem? Assuming you had the right computer parts and a decent portable holo-emitter, you'd be able to assemble an instant "doctor in a box" that could be shipped anywhere. It would be perfect for relief missions: a Federation starship arriving at the site of a plague or a disaster at some remote colony could beam these down to assist medical staff. Your ship's doctor would arrive first, then activate the portable EMH units to a chorus of "Please state the nature of the medical emergency." With sufficient experience, an army of EMHs might even obviate the need for human first responders entirely!
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Say what you want about Voyager's EMH (and there is plenty to say), one thing we never doubted was his vast library of medical knowledge and procedures. "Wait a minute," you might say, "we have a vast library of medical knowledge and procedures right here in the year 2015! Why can't we build a virtual doctor?" Maybe you should ask Ensign Harry Kim and Lieutenant Tom Paris, who tried to build an EMH from scratch after sending theirs off-ship; it didn't go super-well.
"I think he's reciting Gray's Anatomy."
It turns out that having a library of knowledge is just half the solution; you also need a complex set of algorithms that can receive input, sort through all the necessary data, and arrive at the correct solution. That set, it turns out, may be closer than you think. Who remembers Watson, IBM's "cognitive technology" that made such a splash on Jeopardy?
Once it's all up and running (staff at Memorial Sloan Kettering have started training it), Watson Oncology will be able to read through a patient's entire history, examine clinical data, cross-reference it with thousands of cases, and take into account the latest research to come up with recommendations for treatment — all with the speed and efficient impartiality of a computer. They claim it won't necessarily take the place of a doctor; it would be like having a super-intelligent assistant. To me, that sounds like an Emergency Oncology Hologram…minus the "emergency" and "hologram" parts, of course, but let’s not quibble.
Time will tell if this approach ends up working, but I like the sound of Watson Oncology so far. And if it turns out to be viable, why not expand the Watson platform to other areas of medicine? Watson Gastroenterology? Watson Cardiology? Watson Pediatrics? Put enough of them together and you might end up with something of a holy grail in the medical world: a generalist who's also an expert in everything. All we'll need then is the ability to project a solid holographic image! I assume by that point, it'll be able to teach itself how to sing opera.
XPRIZE is an innovation engine. We design and operate prize competitions to address global crises and market failures, and incentivize teams around the world to solve them. Currently, we are operating numerous prizes, including the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE, challenging privately funded teams to successfully land a robot on the Moon’s surface, and the $10M Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, challenging teams around the world to create a portable, wireless, Star Trek-inspired medical device that allows you to monitor your health and medical conditions anywhere, anytime. The result? Radical innovation that will help us all live long and prosper.
Sign up today to join our mission, be a part of our campaign and win collectibles at: tricorderfederation.org.