After Game Show Success, Watson Lands Job in Healthcare

Earlier this year, Watson, IBM's highly intelligent machine beat the two all-time winners in Jeopardy!. Watson, named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, is a computing system built by a team of IBM scientists who set out to accomplish a grand challenge - build a computing system that rivals a human's ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence. Of course, IBM did not spend all its time and resources just to create a system that can succeed at game shows.

With its ability to rapidly process natural language queries, Watson has many potential applications for business and society, and one key starting point is in healthcare. WellPoint, Inc., one of the nation's largest health insurers, announced that it is employing Watson technology to help analyze the meaning and context of human language, and quickly process vast amounts of information to suggest options targeted to a patient's circumstances.

Watson can sift through an equivalent of about 1 million books or roughly 200 million pages of data, and analyze this information and provide precise responses in less than three seconds. Using this capability WellPoint is expected to enable Watson to allow physicians to easily coordinate medical data programmed into Watson with specified patient factors, to help them identify the most likely diagnosis and treatment options for their patients.

"With medical information doubling every 5 years and healthcare costs increasing, Watson has tremendous potential for applications that improve the efficiency of care and reduce wait times for diagnosis and treatment by enabling clinicians with access to the best clinical data the moment they need it," said Manoj Saxena, general manager, Watson Solutions, IBM Software Group.

Depending on the progress of the development efforts, WellPoint anticipates employing Watson technology in early 2012, working with select physician groups in clinical pilots.

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