The first computerized medical diagnosis systems (late 1950s)

“The Automatic Digital Computer as an Aid in Medical Diagnosis” (1959, Crumb and Rupe) is an interesting example of hope versus reality. Computers will turn medicine into a science and they’ll also save money.

The authors predicted that computers in medicine would “contribute to the good of mankind”:

What do we have, 60+ years later? Epic, whose primary function is making sure that the providers get paid!

Were these authors the pioneers? No! The references include a 1956 punched card-based diagnosis system for diseases of the cornea (TIME).

The comments on the article are interesting. Then, as now, we don’t know if computers are useful in medicine because we don’t know how often human doctors are correct:

3 thoughts on “The first computerized medical diagnosis systems (late 1950s)

  1. That paper was presented to a computing meeting, not a medical one. This probably has some significance.

  2. Arithmetic engines can and successfully did turn medicine in the accounting, what else? Maybe creative accounting?

  3. The more automated things become, the higher the qualifications become to use the things which are supposedly more automated. Compare writing software today to 20 years ago. It takes a lot more theoretical knowledge & programming tests to get a job now that languages are supposedly idiot proof than it did when languages required superhuman pointer math.

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