WellPoint taps IBM's Watson to diagnose, recommend treatment


WellPoint (NYSE: WLP) has reached an agreement with IBM to use its supercomputer Watson (recently of "Jeopardy!" fame) to help physicians diagnose medical illnesses and recommend treatment options for patients.

"Physicians really need tools to get better quality answers," Lori Beer, a WellPoint executive vice president in charge of the Watson initiative, told the Los Angeles Times. "We see this as a tool to help them be more successful in driving better outcomes for our members. We're not trying to replace the physician."

Starting in small clinical trials next year, Watson will read and analyze massive amounts of medical literature, population health data, and patient records to address complex medical questions, reports Medical News Today.

WellPoint said the supercomputer, which can analyze 200 million pages of data in less than three seconds, will provide physicians with instant information to improve quality of care and save money, notes the LA Times. "If you think about how much is happening in research, about 1 million new articles coming out every year, Watson can be so much more widely read than any physician," Sam Nussbaum, Wellpoint's chief medical officer, told the Washington Post.

Although Watson won't make reimbursement decisions, WellPoint hopes the system eventually can tell doctors whether patients have coverage for certain medical therapies and drugs.

To learn more:
- check out the Medical News Today article
- see the Los Angeles Times article
- read the Washington Post article

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