Now that Watson has conquered Jeopardy, the computer is now moving into the field of medicine.
IBM released a statement that states that the organization will work with a voice recognition firm called Nuance Communications to integrate the technologies into the Linux-based Watson computer. These technologies may help the company perform roles in the healthcare industry.
The University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Columbia University School of Medicine are also participating in this project. Physicians at the University of Maryland are evaluating opportunities to determine ways that Watson can provide maximum assistance to health care practitioners. At Columbia, the doctors are looking for critical issues in health care that Watson can address.
The fact that Watson can understand the human language – both in meaning and context –and quickly process information opens up avenues to help doctors and nurses. The computer may be able to surf through large amounts of information and discover answers that the medical professionals may not have considered. For example, Watson should be able to go through a patient’s medical record, summarize the information, and suggest possible areas for concern. Watson may also be able to alert physicians about how a specific treatment has worked on patients of similar backgrounds and diagnoses. Watson may also be able to help with patient office visits; the cumulative effects would be that Watson could perform as a Physician’s Assistant.
The first projects and products should be available for use in 18 to 24 months. Nuance and IBM also have a 5-year research initiative to advance the field of natural language processing.