WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Enough with the fun and games. Watson is going to work.
IBM’s supercomputer system, best known for trouncing the world’s best “Jeopardy!” players on TV, is being tapped by one of the nation’s largest health insurers to help diagnose medical problems and authorize treatments.
WellPoint Inc., which has 34.2 million members, will integrate Watson’s lightning speed and deep health care database into its existing patient information, helping it choose among treatment options and medicines.
“It’s really a game-changer in health care,” said Lori Beer, an executive vice president at Indianapolis-based WellPoint.
The WellPoint application will combine data from three sources: a patient’s chart and electronic records that a doctor or hospital has, the insurance company’s history of medicines and treatments, and Watson’s huge library of textbooks and medical journals.
IBM said the computer can then sift through it all and answer a question in moments, providing several possible diagnoses or treatments, ranked in order of the computer’s confidence, along with the basis for its answer.
“Imagine having the ability within three seconds to look through all of that information, to have it be up to date, scientifically presented to you, and based on that patient’s medical needs at the moment you’re caring for that patient,” said WellPoint’s chief medical officer, Dr. Sam Nussbaum.
Beer said patients needn’t worry that Watson will be used to help insurers deny benefits.
“We’re really trying to bring providers a tool that’s successful, that helps drive better outcomes, which is how we want to reimburse physicians in the future,” Beer said.