Victory in hand, IBM's Watson heads to medical school

Supercomputer to work on health care problems

What’s a supercomputer to do after it beats two of the best human minds at trivia game? It’s enrolls in medical school, of course.

IBM Corp.’s Watson, which won a three-day "Jeopardy!", tournament this week, will now begin work with Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Maryland Medical School on health care analytics research, IBM announced today.

IBM and Nuance Communications Inc. are partnering on the research project that will focus on combining IBM’s Deep Question Answering, Natural Language Processing, and Machine Learning capabilities with Nuance’s speech recognition and Clinical Language Understanding solutions.

The goal is to develop a commercial offering in the next 18 to 24 months that will exploit Watson’s capabilities to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of patients.

The medical schools will contribute their expertise and research to the collaborative effort. For example, physicians at Columbia University are helping identify critical issues in the practice of medicine where the Watson technology may be able to contribute, and physicians at the University of Maryland are working to identify the best way that a technology like Watson could interact with medical practitioners to provide the maximum assistance, IBM said in a statement.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

Reader Comments

Fri, Feb 18, 2011 Scott Ann Arbor

@Morris: Morris, I think you missed my point. The anlytical power of the 'super computer' and its ability to use advanced agent-based or swarming models to find patterns is not comparable to Business Analytics using 'standard' computing facilities. So far BI thrown at the health care fraud problem has been a failure and will be painfully slow if ever successful. Time for a new approach.

Fri, Feb 18, 2011 Richard

It would appear we now have a machine capable of truly passing the Turing Test.

Fri, Feb 18, 2011 Mike Colorado Springs

Such technology would be useful to first responders/parametics/firement/police in emergency situations to provide first aide until they get the victim to the hospital and real doctors. The system could be designed so heart monitors and other sensor inputs in the ambulance could be interpreted by the computer to provide treament options on the way.

Fri, Feb 18, 2011 Morris Maryland

@Scott: IBM is already working with public sector agencies using business analytics software to capture fraud, waste and abuse. There are some data issues around privacy that make it more complicated than it would appear, but business analytics will soon make it much harder to cheat entitlement and tax programs.

Fri, Feb 18, 2011 Scott Ann Arbor

A better use would be to put the 'intelligence' to work on fraud in the medical supply chain from source to consumption to benefit claims such as Medicare reimbursments. The money saved can fund improvements and coverage as well as provide funding for more creative research..... then let them go to med school. I don't argue the long term benefits but you can't beat the short term benefits of uncovering fraud and waste in the greater system.

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