IBM's Watson to Start Dispensing Medical Advice

It teams with big insurer, hospital on two apps for doctors, insurers
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 8, 2013 6:09 PM CST
This 2011 photo provided by IBM shows the computer system known as Watson at IBM's research center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.   (AP Photo/IBM, File)
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(Newser) – Dr. Watson is accepting new patients. The Watson supercomputer is graduating from its medical residency and is being offered commercially to doctors and health insurance companies. IBM, the health insurer WellPoint, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center announced two Watson-based applications—one to help assess treatments for lung cancer and one to help manage health insurance decisions and claims. Both applications take advantage of the speed, huge database, and language skill the computer demonstrated in defeating the best human Jeopardy! players on television two years ago.

In both applications, doctors or insurance company workers will access Watson through a tablet or computer. Watson will compare a patient's medical records to what it has learned and make recommendations in decreasing order of confidence. In the cancer program, the computer will be considering what treatment is most likely to succeed. In the insurance program, it will consider what treatment should be authorized for payment. Watson has been trained in medicine through pilot programs at WellPoint and Sloan-Kettering. The lung cancer program is being adopted by two medical groups, the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine and WestMed in New York's Westchester County. WellPoint is already using the insurance application. It will be selling both applications and will compensate IBM under a deal between the firms. (Read more IBM stories.)

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