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IBM’s Watson transforming patient care

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IBM, WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center recently unveiled the first commercially developed Watson-based cognitive computing breakthroughs. These innovations help transform the quality and speed of care delivered to patients through individualized, evidence-based medicine.

Watson, famous for its performance on the TV game show “Jeopardy!,” is an artificial intelligence computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language.

The American Cancer Society projects that 1.6 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the United States this year alone. Studies suggest that the complexities associated with healthcare have caused one in five healthcare patients to receive a wrong or incomplete diagnosis. These statistics, coupled with a data explosion of medical information that is doubling every five years, represent an unprecedented opportunity for the healthcare industry and next generation cognitive computing systems to combine forces in new ways to improve how medicine is taught, practiced and paid for.

For more than a year, IBM has partnered separately with WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering to train Watson in the areas of oncology and utilization management. During this time, clinicians and technology experts spent thousands of hours “teaching” Watson how to process, analyze and interpret the meaning of complex clinical information using natural language processing, all with the goal of helping to improve health care quality and efficiency.

“IBM’s work with WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center represents a landmark collaboration in how technology and evidence based medicine can transform the way in which healthcare is practiced,” says Manoj Saxena, IBM general manager, Watson Solutions. “These breakthrough capabilities bring forward the first in a series of Watson-based technologies, which exemplifies the value of applying big data and analytics and cognitive computing to tackle the industries most pressing challenges.”

To date, Watson has ingested more than 600,000 pieces of medical evidence, two million pages of text from 42 medical journals and clinical trials in the area of oncology research. Watson has the power to sift through 1.5 million patient records representing decades of cancer treatment history, such as medical records and patient outcomes, and provide to physicians evidence based treatment options all in a matter of seconds.

In less than a year, Memorial Sloan-Kettering has immersed Watson in the complexities of cancer and the explosion of genetic research, which has set the stage for changing care practices for many cancer patients with highly specialized treatments based on their personal genetic tumor type.

Starting with 1,500 lung cancer cases, Memorial Sloan-Kettering clinicians and analysts are training Watson to extract and interpret physician notes, lab results and clinical research, while sharing its profound expertise and experiences in treating hundreds of thousands of patients with cancer.

“It can take years for the latest developments in oncology to reach all practice settings. The combination of transformational technologies found in Watson with our cancer analytics and decision-making process has the potential to revolutionize the accessibility of information for the treatment of cancer in communities across the country and around the world,” says Craig B.Thompson, M.D., president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. “Ultimately, we expect this comprehensive, evidence-based approach will profoundly enhance cancer care by accelerating the dissemination of practice-changing research at an unprecedented pace.”

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