WellPoint Inc, a U.S. health insurer, and International Business Machines (IBM) have agreed to use IBM's Watson technology to help physicians identify best treatment options.
The new collaboration will be introduced next year and will initially be used by nurses who review treatment requests from doctors and others and manage involved patient cases.
"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 patients' medical needs at the moment you're caring for that patient," WellPoint's chief medical officer, Dr. Sam Nussbaum, told the Associated Press.
The WellPoint application will combine data from three sources:
- A patient's chart and electronic records that a doctor or hospital.
- An insurance company's history of medicines and treatments.
- Watson's huge library of textbooks and medical journals.
WellPoint Inc., which has 34.2 million members, would integrate Watson's promised "lightning" speed and deep health care database into an existing patient information, helping users best select among treatment options and medicines.
"This very much fits into the sweet spot of what we envisioned for the applications of Watson," Manoj Saxena, general manager of an IBM division looking at how the computer can be marketed, told reporters.
WellPoint said it plans to use Watson's data-crunching to help suggest treatment options and diagnoses to doctors, which is part of a general trend for incorporating computer-influenced supervision into care.
Insurers say the procedure would ensure that doctors and hospitals who adopt electronic medical records and other digital tools will be capable of recording, tracking and checking their work.
The company added that they hope the technology will help improve the quality of patient care and help reduce costs.
WellPoint is the nation's largest publicly traded health insurer based on enrollment. It operates Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in 14 states, including New York and California.
The Watson technology is capable of processing about 200 million pages of content in less than three seconds, according to IBM.
Excerpts of the data sources behind the particular suggestions that the Watson technology will be offering will be displayed by the WellPoint system.
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