Diagnosis? Elementary, with help from ‘Watson’

THE IBM supercomputer most famous for beating two former champions of American game show Jeopardy! earlier this year will soon be helping US physicians identify treatment options, under an agreement announced last week.

US healthcare company WellPoint has signed a deal for the first commercial applications for the IBM ‘Watson’ technology, which was designed to rival a human’s ability to answer questions posed in natural language.

The system can sift through an equivalent of about one million books or roughly 200 million pages of data, analyse the information and provide precise responses in less than three seconds.

WellPoint chief medical officer Dr Sam Nussbaum said advances in medical science and clinical knowledge were happening every day but that knowledge was not always used in the care of patients.

“Imagine having the ability to take in all the information around a patient’s medical care – symptoms