WellPoint brings Watson to healthcare
IBM is teaming with WellPoint to develop the first commercial applications of its Watson technology, with an eye toward bringing evidence-based information to care providers.
Watson is the computing system built by IBM that is intended to rival a human’s ability to answer question posed in natural language. Watson’s most public foray into proving its ability to handle the task was in its appearance on the TV game-show Jeopardy! where it competed against and twice beat two former champions.
The concept of the development program is to provide healthcare providers with easy access to the most relevant and recent medical findings as published in medical literature. With its ability to analyze data at the rate of approximately 1 million books or 200 million pages of data and analyze it to provide an answer in less than 3 seconds, the two companies envision Watson as a method for healthcare providers to keep up with the ever increasing volume of relevant medical literature.
"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, MD, WellPoint's chief medical officer in a press release announcing the deal. "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."
The applications being developed will use 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 unique circumstances. This information can then be used to assist caregivers, such as physicians and nurses, in identifying the most likely diagnosis and treatment options for their patients.
"With medical information doubling every five years and healthcare costs increasing, Watson has tremendous potential for applications that improve the efficiency of care and reduce wait times for diagnosis and treatment by enabling clinicians with access to the best clinical data the moment they need it," added Manoj Saxena, general manager, Watson Solutions, IBM Software Group.