IBM's Watson shows up for work at Cedars-Sinai's cancer center

Physicians could get advice from Watson in seconds

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IBM said it is working with speech and imaging recognition software provider Nuance Communications to make the supercomputer capable of assisting healthcare professionals in culling through gigabytes or terabytes of patient healthcare information to determine how to best treat specific illnesses.

For example, Watson's analytics technology, used with Nuance's voice and clinical language understanding software, could help a physician consider all related texts, reference materials, prior cases, and latest knowledge in journals and medical literature when treating an illness. The analysis could quickly help physicians determine the best options for diagnosis and treatment.

Watson will likely be good at helping physicians prescribe treatments that will have the best outcome, Gold said. For example, between the first and second prescribed treatments of a cancer patient, 50% of the time the prescribed medication changes for the second treatment based on the patient's reaction to the initial treatment, Gold said. Watson may be able to better prescribe initial treatments based on past patient data and information specific to the patient being treated.

"The goal is to assist physicians in evaluating evidence-based treatment options that can be delivered to the physician in a matter of seconds for assessment," he said.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His email address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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