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IBM: Watson can make the world a better place

ThinkDigital event hears how the supercomputer could improve people' lives

IBM: Watson can make the world a better place
One of IBM's Watson-based cognitive computing products (PRNewsFoto/IBM)

In an era when 'data is the new oil' IBM says its supercomputer Watson is poised to make a huge difference to the way healthcare is delivered.

IBM Watson, which famously beat human contestants on the US game show Jeopardy two years ago, can process huge amounts of information in a similar way to how people think.

Amer Fasihi, associate partner at IBM, told ThinkDigital 14 recently: “It's the beginning of a huge change in the way healthcare is accessed, developed and paid for, simply because of the speed at which all of the information and insights will be available at everyone's fingertips.

Watson can locate an answer to a question - rather than just a fact that needs to be found - and then assign a confidence level to its findings. So for fever, Fasihi noted, it can know the difference between the “Saturday Night” or the “West Nile” and “Dengue” varieties.

“Watson's learnings are very powerful in healthcare - it changes everything and the companies that don't change are not going to survive,” Fasihi told the audience at DigitasHealth Lifebrands' annual London event.

The company is exploring a number of different healthcare applications for Watson, including partnering with health insurer WellPoint and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to combine medical data with clinical practice information.

“IBM's underlying drive over its 100 year history has been 'to make the world a better place'. It's a grand claim, but that's what it aims to do. We believe that Watson is a technology that can make the world a better place and it's application in healthcare is certainly something that will improve the lives of many people.”

He added: “I've got no doubt that in a couple of years Watson will be available on a mobile or miniature device.”

Outlining what this kind of advance will bring to the sector, Digitas Health Lifebrands's managing director June Dawson told PMLiVE technology is drive “an unprecedented era of human progress”.

“Its impact on pharma is a game changer,” Dawson added. “The reality of this evolution has seen digital healthcare communication change, beyond recognition the amount of medical information available is doubling every five years and much of this data is unstructured.

“Physicians simply don't have time to read every journal that can help them keep up to date with the latest advances in medicine and the growing complexity of medical decision making which means the future lies with technology like Watson.”


IBM's Amer Fashi discusses Watson (view video on YouTube)

Pharma change

But negotiating these changes could prove challenging for the industry. Pharma's typical model is pretty linear, Fasihi said, “but things are changing and it's becoming very, very complicated and it's very confusing for organisations that are now faced with a rapid evolution, where the patient is now in the middle”.

He points to the recalibration that has taken place in healthcare, moving the patient from the end of the care process to being at its centre, creating a much more complex and interconnected process.

For pharma this presents a number of difficulties. “Managing complexity is really difficult when all you've been doing until now is operating to a linear model – you need much more insight and capability,” Fasihi said.

“There's a big drive in pharma to try and address the complexity of this system and trying to engage better [but] it feels like pharma has been left behind and companies are missing out on a lot of insight.”

He highlighted three factors that will drive pharma's future success:

  • Quantifying outcomes
  • The suitability to a patient of a medicine or service
  • The level of patient engagement.

He said: “The industry has been talking for a long, long time about personalised medicine. There are a lot of therapies out there that require more diagnostics, and that's one element of personalisation, but there's another whole element that brings in engagement.

“What we're seeing is that the more personalisation and engagement that takes place, the better the outcomes that are generally seen.”

Article by
Dominic Tyer

13th October 2014

From: Marketing

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