Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

For those individuals who missed the first broadcast or news about the contest on TV’s Jeopardy! between past champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter and IBM’s Watson computer, I don’t want to give away the outcome before this week’s rebroadcast. Suffice it to say that executives at WellPoint, the largest health insurer in the United States, were sufficiently impressed with Watson’s performance that they’ve made a deal with IBM to develop two of programs that will leverage the machine’s question-and-answer technology. This news broke earlier today.

Nguyen_Anthony-06The big challenge–for WellPoint and IBM–is winning over a healthcare establishment that is rightly cautious and skeptical about new technologies and new approaches to medicine. So the two companies plan on using small-scale tests to prove the effectiveness of the technology before WellPoint considers rolling it out to its network of physicians who treat 34 million individual members nationwide. “This could be game changing. It changes the dynamics of healthcare,” says Dr. Anthony Nguyen, senior vice president of care management at WellPoint. “But people are skeptical and we have to work with them to win over some thought leaders.”

The first of the pilot projects, which will begin by the end of the year, will provide hundreds of WellPoint’s internal clinicians–doctors, nurses and health counselors–with a version of Watson tailor made for healthcare. The Watson technology, which combines natural language processing with machine learning, will be fed a huge volume of medical literature together with WellPoint’s clinical treatment guidelines, and will tap into individual medical records. When WellPoint gets a request for approval of a treatment or procedure, the physicians and nurses considering the request will be able to determine the best treatment not just for the patient’s condition but for that individual patient–and recommend that approach to the physicians, backed with the best scientific data available.

Nguyen hopes that the test will be so successful that he’ll quickly be able to roll the program out to the 3,000 WellPoint clinicians who staff the company’s utilization management unit, and, ultimately to all 5,000 internal clinicians.

The second pilot project, targeted to begin in 2012, will enlist several hundred oncologists who are not WellPoint employees. The doctors will be able to query the Watson-based application to help them decide on the best treatment for individual patients. In addition, Nguyen hopes the application will eventually essentially read over the physicians shoulders when they’re researching a case and offer additional information based on what they’re looking at.

WellPoint chose oncology because diagnoses and treatment are so critical in this specialty. “If we can prove it with the oncology space, which can be life and death, we can then go out and offer it to other specialties,” he says.

Nguyen is by profession a hospitalist, the kind of physician who treats patients in emergency rooms and intensive care units. He says he was thrilled when he first watched Watson in action on Jeopardy! via YouTube clips. “I’m impressed with the capability of Watson to process so much information in such a small amount of time,” he says. “A doctor doesn’t have to perform a plethora of tests. This is like having a room full of the top experts to help him diagnose. It puts him on par with the world’s experts, which gives him greater confidence that he’s doing the right thing for his patients.”

The timing is very good for this initiative. The government’s healthcare reform law provides grants and other assistance for physicians to convert to electronic medical records. So the technology and data are becoming available to help create a revolution in health care. The hurdle now is getting people to use the new intelligence that they might soon have at their fingertips.

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May 10, 2015
6:54 am

Great article with excellent idea!Thank you for such a valuable article. I really appreciate for this great information..

Posted by: Monaco
October 25, 2013
7:20 am

Do you have any video of that? I’d care to find out some additional

Posted by: bing
October 11, 2013
3:32 pm

What you posted made a bunch of sense. However, think on this,
what if you wrote a catchier post title? I
ain’t suggesting your content is not solid, however what if you
added something that grabbed folk’s attention? I mean Watson:
Can the Artificial Intelligence Technology Win Over Skeptics in Healthcare?

Posted by: website
August 4, 2013
3:54 am

Excellent read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch since I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase that: Thank you for lunch!

Posted by: Urban Clothing
July 26, 2013
11:29 am

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Posted by: Sharilyn Bettman
July 25, 2013
6:13 pm
July 24, 2013
3:38 am

An fascinating dialogue is value comment. I feel that it’s best to write extra on this matter, it won’t be a taboo topic however usually individuals are not sufficient to talk on such topics. To the next. Cheers

Posted by: Joe Saldi
March 26, 2012
10:43 am

As Barbara Duck suggested law seems to be very promising field to use this system. Also education, news, smart information searches, agriculture guidance based on weather and other local factors, structural engineering … come to think of it, the possible fields of uses are so many. Great work Watson team !

Posted by: R. George
March 22, 2012
8:59 pm

We need to use Watson not only to figure out treatments but to catalog health history to figure out causes. I was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer and my oncologist and most doctors want to treat the symptoms but they do not look for the cause of developing cancer. In my case I went to a preventative doctor to work on possible causes that effected my immune system so it could not fight cancer. I was tested for environmental factors and it turned out I had extremely high mercury (more then my doctor had seen in over 35 years of practice) lead and other metals. Plus Vitamin D, magnesium, iodine deficencies. If we could catalog health problems we could come up with preventative measures for cancer. I am an IBM retiree and I would like to help develop the information that needs to be collected from patients to prevent cancer.

Posted by: Babara J. Britt
September 12, 2011
7:24 pm

Machine learning can help a lot but bigger need for Watson in making laws in Congress to query information than healthcare.

Also of interest too with machine learning is the rogue or strange algorithms like the financial district runs to check for accuracy, i.e. Nanex to find out why they go out of whack and with huge amounts of data, something to be aware of with IBM Watson. Very good video on how algorithms affect your life and what the quants do to figure what occurred when they go bonkers too.

Posted by: Barbara Duck
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March 29, 2012
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