IBM, Nuance to apply 'Watson' analytics to healthcare
We've seen the ease with which he bested his human opponents on the Jeopardy! challenge. Next up for Watson the supercomputer? Improving the delivery of healthcare.
IBM and Nuance Communications announced Thursday a research agreement to explore, develop and commercialize the Watson computing system’s advanced analytics capabilities in the healthcare industry.
The research and technology initiative will combine IBM’s Deep Question Answering (QA), Natural Language Processing, and Machine Learning capabilities with Nuance’s speech recognition and Clinical Language Understanding (CLU) solutions for the diagnosis and treatment of patients that provide hospitals, physicians and payers access to critical and timely information.
The two companies expect the first commercial offerings from the collaboration to be available in 18-24 months.
Additionally, Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine will contribute their medical expertise and research to the collaborative effort. For example, physicians at Columbia University are helping identify critical issues in the practice of medicine where the Watson technology may be able to contribute, and physicians at the University of Maryland are working to identify the best way that a technology like Watson could interact with medical practitioners to provide the maximum assistance.
Watson’s ability to analyze the meaning and context of human language, quickly processing information to find precise answers can assist decision makers, such as physicians and nurses, unlock important knowledge and facts buried within huge volumes of information, and offer answers they may not have considered to help validate their own ideas or hypotheses.
“Combining our analytics expertise with the experience and technology of Nuance, we can transform the way that healthcare professionals accomplish everyday tasks by enabling them to work smarter and more efficiently” said John E. Kelly III, MD, senior vice president and director of IBM Research. “This initiative demonstrates how we plan to apply Watson’s capabilities into new areas, such as healthcare with Nuance.”
For example, a doctor considering a patient’s diagnosis could use Watson’s analytics technology, in conjunction with Nuance’s voice and clinical language understanding solutions, to rapidly consider all the related texts, reference materials, prior cases, and latest knowledge in journals and medical literature to gain evidence from many more potential sources than previously possible, thereby helping the medical professional to confidently determine the most likely diagnosis and treatment options.
“The combination of Nuance’s speech recognition and existing Clinical Language Understanding solutions with the power of IBM’s Watson technology will introduce unmatched clinical information and analytic technological advancements for healthcare,” said Paul Ricci, chairman and CEO of Nuance. “The initiative represents a logical step in Nuance’s evolution, one that expands our capabilities from recognizing what was said to understanding the intent and providing guidance."
He added that the collaboration with IBM "will transform the capture, flow and use of clinical data, empowering healthcare organizations to drive smarter, more efficient clinical and business decisions.”
[See also: IBM launches massive health data research project.]
“We are excited at the prospect of applying the Watson analytics technology to help create the next generation of electronic medical record systems and the next generation of computer diagnostic and decision support tools,” said Eliot Siegel, MD, director of the Maryland Imaging Research Technologies Laboratory (MIRTL) at University of Maryland School of Medicine. “We believe that this has the potential to usher in a new era of computer assisted personalized medicine into healthcare to improve diagnostic accuracy, efficiency, and patient safety."
“Watson has the potential to help doctors reduce the time needed to evaluate and determine the correct diagnosis for a patient,” said Herbert Chase, professor of clinical Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. “We also believe that Watson also has the ability to help doctors provide personalized treatment options that are tailored to an individual patient’s needs.”
Under the agreement, IBM and Nuance will jointly invest in a multi-year research initiative targeted to the applications of the Watson technology to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of patients in combination with Nuance’s voice and clinical language solutions.
In addition, IBM has licensed access to the Watson technology to Nuance. IBM and Nuance are currently engaged in a five-year joint-research initiative designed to advance next-generation natural language speech technologies, the results of which will be commercialized by Nuance. IBM also named Nuance its Preferred Business Partner for speech technologies and related professional services, aimed at complementing IBM’s Industry Solutions portfolio.