Forget Obamacare, Here Comes Watson-Care

After beating human contestants on Jeopardy!, IBM’s Watson computer is on to bigger and better things. The next challenge on this super computer’s agenda is certainly a bigger fish to fry: the healthcare industry.

Today, IBM announced plans to apply Watson’s analytics capabilities to the process of diagnosing and treating patients. IBM will combine its Deep Question Answering, Natural Language Processing, and Machine Learning technologies with Nuance Communications’ speech recognition and Clinical Language Understanding applications to help physicians make smarter and more efficient decisions. The results of the collaboration are expected to be the next generation of electronic medical records systems and diagnostic support tools, which the companies hope to bring to market in the next 18-24 months.

Watson will assess critical issues in the practice of medicine based on the research and input of the C0lumbia University Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine. IBM and Nuance hope that the supercomputer’s ability to understand and interpret human language will “unlock important knowledge and facts buried within huge volumes of information, and offer answers they may not have considered to help validate their own ideas or hypotheses.” In practice, this may mean that physicians making a diagnosis could consult Watson and Nuance’s language understanding tools to view all relevant resources, including the latest literature in medical journals.

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