Putting Watson to Work in Healthcare

You’ve probably heard House make a diagnosis:

CLIP: (Dr. House) Loss of consciousness plus she’s slowing turning blue. Did we rule out magical gum?

He has a team to help him out.

CLIP: (Chase) Low cardiac output can cause both. Patient probably possibly has cardiomyopathy, possibly caused by mercury poisoning from all the tuna fish he eats.

But what if he also had help from a computer? Not just any computer, but Watson: the super computer that beat two veteran Jeopardy! champs earlier this year.

It’s a machine that learns. It balances and weighs tremendous amounts of information. And the hope is to apply Watson to healthcare.

Dr. David Ferrucci is the brains behind the brain, so to speak. He’s the Principal Investigator for the Watson project and an IBM Fellow. He’s in town for the Medical Innovation Summit happening this week at the InterContinental Hotel in Cleveland.

He says Watson can help doctors make better medical decisions.

FERRUCCI: The kind of technology that Watson represents can help you get over your initial biases, consider many many different possibilities, collect evidence, analyze it, and inform the healthcare professional as well as the patient and ensure that we’re not missing things, that we’re looking at all the possibilities, that we’re looking at the best and most relevant and most current evidence in support of diagnoses or treatments.

The Watson computer, built by IBM, is heralded for its ability to readily interpret and answer questions in ways that make it easy for humans to interact with.
The company recently announced a deal with the health insurer WellPoint to adapt Watson for use in the medical field.
Ferrucci is hopeful that we’ll see progress on this in the next year or so.

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