The World Needs Watson

By | 2017-06-27T08:35:26+00:00 March 17, 2017|Healthcare Trends, Innovation, Technology, Viewpoints|

2.5 million: That’s the number of articles published by scholarly peer-reviewed English-language journals in a single year. That’s 6849 per day.

For fun, let’s assume that each article has, on average, 5000 words. Knowing that the fastest human readers can hit 1000 words per minute, let’s do the math. Based on these assumptions, some of the fastest readers would need approximately 48 days to read the number of articles published in one day; and by that time, there would be an additional ≈328,767 articles that had been published since they began reading.

We have an information crisis. There is simply too much medical literature for physicians to keep up with. How can we bring the best treatment to everyone if it’s impossible to keep up? Medical information overload is one of the biggest barriers we face today. We just haven’t realized it yet.

This crisis is not a health problem. It’s an information problem. It’s a knowledge transfer problem. We are limited by our finite human form. We must expand our ability to understand and extract value out of the vast quantities of knowledge. We must build new tools to accomplish this goal—new tools like Watson.

What Is Watson?

“Watson is an IBM supercomputer that combines artificial intelligence (AI) and sophisticated analytical software for optimal performance as a question answering machine.”

Basically, you ask Watson a question and it gives you an answer—simple enough. Breaking it down, Watson must do two things incredibly well. First, it must understand your question and, second, it must give you the right answer to that question.

The Right Question

The right answer to the wrong question is meaningless. To understand a question, Watson studied human language and can now translate a request into a computer-friendly format. Over years of improvement and refinement, it has a very good chance of figuring out what you want—even in medical fields like oncology.

The Right Answer

As mentioned before, Watson can understand and analyze natural language. To get the right answer, the system can read and understand all the available material on a subject. And critically important, Watson can continuously learn and never forgets.

In a recent study in which Watson assisted cancer treatment recommendations, Watson read 25 million published medical papers in about week and scanned the Web for the latest scientific research. And in an analysis of more than 1000 cancer patients, Watson found the same treatments available that doctors had recommended 99 percent of the time. Not only that, but Watson also recommended new treatments for 30% of patients that physicians had not thought of by pulling from all the latest clinical trials and being aware of the most recently approved treatments. These were real, actionable recommendations that may have made the difference for a patient’s success and survival.

The World Needs Watson

Without Watson or a similar supercomputer, what will we do? Our best medical knowledge is simply not getting to all the people that need it. To continue the advancement of medical care, we need AI. We need Watson.

Interested in learning more about how artificial intelligence will affect healthcare? I would love to discuss; please reach out to contact me.

About the Author:

Ben Putman
SVP, Creative Technology and Innovation

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