IBM super-computer Watson partners with the Cleveland Clinic

Remember Watson, the super-computer that made a media splash last year when it took on human Jeopardy! champs?

Well now Watson, which is designed to essentially learn from experience, is going to take a stab at medicine. Creator IBM is partnering with the Cleveland Clinic to pilot the technology, with the aim of making a tool that could be useful to healthcare.

David Ferrucci heads up the Watson Project at IBM Research.

FERRUCCI: So we want to find that sweet spot between machine and humans to get better outcomes.

The idea is that Watson could one-day help clinicians sort through the vast array of medical information out there and apply it to individual cases.

Watson still has a lot to learn about the medical field, though--researchers hope this partnership will help.

Over a period of years, the computer will accompany students through case scenarios, all the while building a database of knowledge.

The Clinic’s Dr. Martin Harris says the hope is that eventually it’ll help doctors make decisions:

HARRIS: Is this a good judgment to proceed or is there an alternative? Watson can present to you, with a probability table, instantly, the best evidence-based treatment path and all of the other alternatives for you to consider.

Of course this vision of Watson in the exam room is still a long way off: Harris estimates the computer won’t be able to assist with advanced diagnosis for another 5-10 years.


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