Putting Watson To Work In Healthcare
If you’ve been wondering whether our IBM intelligent Q&A technology Watson (no relation) was going to ever go out and get a real job, you need wait no longer.
Just as the Watson v. Jeopardy contest is set to start being rebroadcast here in North America this very day, IBM and Wellpoint announced an agreement today to create the first commercial applications of the IBM Watson technology.
WellPoint is the nation’s largest health benefits company in terms of medical membership, with 34 million members in its affiliated health plans, and a total of more than 70 million individuals served through its subsidiaries.
Under the agreement, Wellpoint will develop and launch Watson-based solutions to help improve patient care through the delivery of up-to-date, evidence-based health care for millions of Americans.
IBM will develop the foundational Watson healthcare technology on which WellPoint’s solution will run.
What Is Watson?
Watson, named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, is a computing system built by a team of IBM scientists who set out to accomplish a grand challenge â€“- build a computing system that rivals a human’s ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence.
Earlier this year, Watson competed and won against two of the most celebrated players ever to appear on Jeopardy!. This historic match is being rebroadcast over three days, starting today.
Watson’s ability to analyze the meaning and context of human language, and quickly process vast amounts of information to suggest options targeted to a patient’s circumstances, can assist decision makers, such as physicians and nurses, in identifying the most likely diagnosis and treatment options for their patients.
In recent years, few areas have advanced as rapidly as health care. For physicians, incorporating hundreds of thousands of articles into practice and applying them to patient care is a significant challenge.
Watson can sift through an equivalent of about 1 million books or roughly 200 million pages of data, and analyze this information and provide precise responses in less than three seconds.
Watson: Helping Doctors With Their Diagnostics
Using this extraordinary capability WellPoint is expected to enable Watson to allow physicians to easily coordinate medical data programmed into Watson with specified patient factors, to help identify the most likely diagnosis and treatment options in complex cases. Watson is expected to serve as a powerful tool in the physician’s decision making process.
Medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, chronic heart or kidney disease are incredibly intricate. New solutions incorporating Watson are being developed to have the ability to look at massive amounts of medical literature, population health data, and even a patient’s health record, in compliance with applicable privacy and security laws, to answer profoundly complex questions.
For example, we envision that new applications will allow physicians to use Watson to consult patient medical histories, recent test results, recommended treatment protocols and the latest research findings loaded into Watson to discuss the best and most effective courses of treatment with their patients.
“There are breathtaking advances in medical science and clinical knowledge, however; this clinical information is not always used in the care of patients. Imagine having the ability to take in all the information around a patient’s medical care — symptoms, findings, patient interviews and diagnostic studies. Then, imagine using Watson analytic capabilities to consider all of the prior cases, the state-of-the-art clinical knowledge in the medical literature and clinical best practices to help a physician advance a diagnosis and guide a course of treatment,” said Sam Nussbaum, M.D., WellPoint’s Chief Medical Officer.
“We believe this will be an invaluable resource for our partnering physicians and will dramatically enhance the quality and effectiveness of medical care they deliver to our members.”
Watson may help physicians identify treatment options that balance the interactions of various drugs and narrow among a large group of treatment choices, enabling physicians to quickly select the more effective treatment plans for their patients.
It is also expected to streamline communication between a patient’s physician and their health plan, helping to improve efficiency in clinical review of complex cases. It could even be used to direct patients to the physician in their area with the best success in treating a particular illness.
Depending on the progress of the development efforts, WellPoint anticipates employing Watson technology in early 2012, working with select physician groups in clinical pilots.
You can visit here to learn more about the IBM Watson technology.