By Jay Katzen
For our customers in the medical field, great research can enable great outcomes – from avoiding errors to ensuring patients feel comfortable and informed.
I know first hand how frustrating and anxiety-provoking a hospital visit can be. Not too long ago, I rushed to a hospital emergency room to seek treatment and was disturbed when my medical history wasn’t captured, tests weren’t explained, and no one helped me understand my diagnosis and treatment.
Fortunately, the consequences weren’t grave. Still, I see my experience as a symptom of a healthcare system where it’s difficult for doctors to easily research the clinical information needed to make decisions, given the time constraints they face.
That’s one of the reasons I’m pleased that we’re working with IBM Watson Group to develop enhancements to Elsevier’s market-leading ClinicalKey online search tool for physicians and other healthcare professionals. The addition of Watson technology will help clinicians research diseases, symptoms and treatment options more deeply and combine it with information about particular patients so they can make decisions more quickly and confidently.
ClinicalKey, which we introduced in 2012, allows users to conduct advanced searches using “smart content” developed by Elsevier, from the single largest body of clinical content available in the world – including more than 600 journals, more than 1,200 text books, reports from clinical trials, and many other sources. ClinicalKey is used by hundreds of hospitals and thousands of clinicians worldwide to help them improve outcomes for patients, lower costs and hopefully reduce medical errors.
As a leading provider of scientific, technical and medical content, we are seeing first-hand that medical information is exploding in volume and accelerating in speed. This means more opportunities for users to find insights that improve lives and reduce medical errors. But it also means that clinicians are faced with a great deal more data, and thus need more time to read through the information for answers – and more time is a luxury they don’t have.
Elsevier is collaborating with IBM to explore ways that we can help our clinical users deal with the ocean of medical information that’s now available to them digitally—and we have high hopes that Watson can help us take the next step forward to ensure we deliver the best answer to our users’ questions. I expect the Watson technology to augment the existing clinical research experiences by allowing users to ask Watson questions in natural language as part of their ClinicalKey experience and receive a series of options they can take – all supported by the most clinically relevant content available.
Over time, clinicians will be able to carry on more advanced conversations with the system that will help them deal with especially complex and unusual cases. I can envision a handful of scenarios. Physicians could use the system in their offices to do deep research, or they could tap into the system on tablets or smart phones while on rounds at the hospital, to help them prepare for seeing the next patient. They could potentially also use it when meeting with patients—perhaps helping them explain their conditions more clearly.
Before I became president of the Clinical Solutions business, I led Elsevier’s Academic & Government Markets business unit. While the first steps for Watson have been in healthcare, I can foresee that the technology will be useful throughout the publishing industry, perhaps to bolster and broaden the research of university graduate students who might unlock the next big clinical breakthrough that tomorrow’s clinicians can use. Wherever vast amounts of information are available, there will be a role for cognitive technologies in discovering valuable nuggets of insight.