A computer will soon be able to tell you how long you’ll live.

New technology is being developed to analyze images of your heart, lungs and other organs and then tell you what your chances are of dying in five years.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide’s School of Public Health in Australia have already used the system with a 69 percent success rate.

Red flags raised by the analysis can steer your physician toward the right kind of treatment to head off undesirable outcomes. Or, if you get the all-clear you can crack open a Fosters and throw another shrimp on the barbie.

“Our research has investigated the use of ‘deep learning’, a technique where computer systems can learn how to understand and analyze images,” said Dr. Luke Oakden-Rayner, a radiologist with the university and lead author of a study on the technique that appeared in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

“Although for this study only a small sample of patients was used, our research suggests that the computer has learned to recognize the complex imaging appearances of diseases, something that requires extensive training for human experts.”

Patients who suffered from severe chronic diseases like emphysema and congestive heart failure were the easiest to call for the computer but it detects other, less obvious problems as well.

“Instead of focusing on diagnosing diseases, the automated systems can predict medical outcomes in a way that doctors are not trained to do, by incorporating large volumes of data and detecting subtle patterns,” Oakden-Rayner said.

“Our research opens new avenues for the application of artificial intelligence technology in medical image analysis, and could offer new hope for the early detection of serious illness, requiring specific medical interventions.”

-It_is_certain.-_-_The_Magic_Eight_Ball_(7246548230)Finally — something to replace the rather cryptic Magic 8-ball, which has been the go-to prognostication device since it was marketed for commercial use in 1950. (The concept was actually introduced by The Three Stooges in their 1940 film, You Nazty Spy!)

Using a computer is more scientific, but the analysis will undoubtedly cost a lot more than the $6.74 price tag for the 8-ball listed on Amazon.

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DANGEROUS DEFINITIONS: A marquee over a bar on Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach reads: “Your hangover is not a pre-existing condition.”

Which brings up a very serious topic that will get lots of attention in the years to come if the Republican health care plan is signed into law. That is, what constitutes a pre-existing condition?

The point of the Affordable Care Act was to take this issue off the table. Once you put it back on the table in any way, shape or form, it becomes a slippery slope.

If someone has lung cancer, that’s obviously a pre-existing condition. But what if a patient is diagnosed — and successfully treated for — basal cell carcinoma? The risk of it spreading is low, especially if it’s caught early.

But will insurers be able to make a case that cancer of any type represents a pre-existing condition for all other types? So that if you are treated for basal cell, and later develop a different form of the disease, you won’t be covered?

These details will likely not be addressed by legislation. They may be worked out later in regulations that govern the new laws.

But in a political environment that is aggressively anti-regulation, will anyone have a watchdog role over these kinds of issues? Or will the health care market be left to run its own chaotic course?

Image credit: Zaneology via Wikimedia Commons

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