by Susan Eustis
IBM Watson is being designed to read and understand questions, providing evaluative statements that are relevant to the diagnostic and treatment tasks at hand in clinical situations. Watson is being trained to become a medical assistant, and a good one at that.
Boston is a hotbed of physicians, and those in attendance filled the room at the IBM Innovation Center for the launch of the IBM Campfire Series and the Watson lecture. The doctors listened intently and asked insightful questions enthusiastically as Dr. Silobrcic talked about Watson. IBM’s Dr. Josko Silobrcic is Senior Medical Scientist at IBM Research. He discussed Watson technology and how it is being deployed at WellPoint and Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC).
According to Dr. Josko Silobrcic, the IBM Watson project is set to help physicians and clinicians deliver better healthcare by improving the information flow to them as a combination of structured and unstructured data flows into a composite rating system as a clinical presentation is collected. The system is stateless, adding and subtracting data relevant to a particular patient presentation as it becomes known.
The IBM Watson project has set out to understand the entire body of medical information. So far it has digested 220,000 documents. These documents have been indexed and loaded into Watson. The documents can be short or they can be an entire medical textbook. The aim is to create a computer system that can be trained and can keep learning as new information is added to the research base.
“If someone has relevant clinical content, we want to be working with them,’ according to Dr. Josko Silobrcic. An example of IBM collaboration with a clinical information organization is the partnership with NCCN. National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) is an alliance of 21 of the world’s leading cancer centers, is an authoritative source of comprehensive information. NCCN promotes continuous quality improvement. It has been instrumental in creating clinical practice guidelines. The primary goal of NCCN initiatives is to improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of oncology practice.
IBM Watson aims to improve the quality and safety of medical care delivery. It takes aim at decreasing the cost of care. It has been good at engaging patients, improving audit trails, and improving efficiency of care delivery. Watson is set to help physicians and clinicians better utilize team skills. This is a product that can support medical best practices, facilitating their delivery to the point of care.
Watson is positioned to advance the achievement of evidence based medical care. Watson is an engine of healthcare delivery, leveraging algorithms and implementing scoring. Patterns of care delivery that work are documented in the system. Using Watson, various partners in healthcare work to deliver customized applications. Watson is positioned to help with patient workups. It helps physicians achieve a differential diagnosis that is consistently supported by the best information available.