This week IBM's Watson has been going up against Jeopardy champs in the Jeopardy challenge. Now, IBM has announced that it will collaborate with Nuance to apply Watson's advanced analytics to the healthcare industry. The initiative will combine IBM's Deep Question Answering (QA), Natural Language Processing, and Machine Learning capabilities with Nuance's speech recognition technology and Clinical Language Understanding solutions. They hope to assist doctors in making patient diagnoses, by helping them to process large amounts of information more quickly.
Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine are working with IBM and Nuance on this initiative, to determine how this technology could make a doctor's job easier. According to IBM's press release:
"Watson's ability to analyze the meaning and context of human language, and quickly process information to find precise answers can assist decision makers, such as physicians and nurses, 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."
An example of how this might work is that a doctor considering a diagnosis could speak questions about the case into the system and then the system would rapidly search through all of the releated texts, reference materials, prior cases, journals, and medical literature, and deliver back to the doctor the most likely diagnosis and treatment options.
If this is effective, it could be a huge change in the way the medical industry operates. It kind of reminds us of the "computer" on Star Trek.
IBM and Nuance expect the first commercial offerings to be available in 18-24 months.