Why IBM Watson is Important


watson_avatar2_140x140First he won at Jeopardy.  Now he’s helping treat cancer.

IBM, WellPoint, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center today unveiled the first commercially developed Watson-based cognitive computing breakthroughs.  This is transformative stuff.  IBM Watson is using evidence-based treatment models to individualize care and improve the speed and quality of treatment.  Doctors from Memorial Sloan-Kettering have spent thousands of hours “teaching” Watson how to process analyze and interpret the meaning of complex clinical information using natural language processing.

IBM Watson videos to see how it all works.  Essentially, Watson takes data from the EHR and analyses it against published data to offer confidence-scored suggestions for treatment.  Physicians can drill as deep as they want with Watson.

Here’s why this is important:

There’s too much to know.  Information and knowledge are exploding at a rate that humans can no longer follow.  Watson offers machine-based relief delivered in the context of a patient’s specific situation.

This is what an EHR should do.  Watson offers what I’ve always pictured an EHR should do: provide a two-way dialog with evidence-based suggestions for treatment.  This represents the first practical, and perhaps the most impressive, application of AI in a clinical setting.  Think of Watson as that friendly nurse who asks, “have you thought about this?

Watson redefines the physician.  This demonstrates how the role of the physician is evolving.  Physicians will not be replaced, but rather radically redefined by machine-based intelligence.  We are moving from learning what we need to know to learning how to access what we need to know.

There’s lots to consider here and I’ll post more as ideas arise.  Let me know what you think