University Hospital Marburg will use Watson’s cognitive computing capabilities to aid doctors with complex diagnosis
IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence (AI) platform will be put to use by medical professionals in Germany to assist them with complex medical cases.
Watson’s cognitive computing capabilities will be deployed in the Undiagnosed and Rare Diseases Centre in the University Hospital Marburg, where it will be used to create a system designed to support the diagnosis and shorten the treatment time of several hundred patients per year.
The system will be developed by IBM in partnership with private hospital group Rhon-Klinkum AG and is set to enter a pilot stage at the end of the year.
Watson in healthcare
The system is needed due to the huge amounts of data the hospital’s doctors have to sift through to find useful information, which Professor and Dr Jürgen Schäfer, a leading expert on rare diseases, compared to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.
“Patients whose medical records weigh more than five kilograms with us are not uncommon. Our centre is therefore not only overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients, but also by the flood of data,” he said.
Given Watson’s cognitive computing abilities allow it to understand natural language like written text, it can ingest this data and draw logical conclusions between existing medical datasets and research with the files of specific patients, while its AI aspects help it learn the relationships it discovers between the data.
Having a fairly powerful AI at its disposal, the Rare Diseases Centre should be able to speed up its diagnosis and thereby treatment of some 6,000 patients the hospital has on it waiting lists.
“That number is almost a nightmare,” said Dr Schafer. “We need new ideas and new technology.”
The system is currently under a limited test using 500 past cases ahead of its pilot in order to see how Watson will come to diagnose them and if it comes to the same conclusions as the doctors.
IBM AI and cloud growth
Watson is commonly delivered as a cloud-based service by IBM, an area where it is seeing strong growth. In its third quarter results, Big Blue saw cloud revenue rise by 44 percent to bring in $3.4 billion, with it also seeing strong growth in the adoption of Watson based services.
And the rise of Watson is only set to increase, as IBM recently entered a trio of partnerships to spread its Watson Internet of Things offering further.
It is also opening up Watson for wider use by releasing additional application programming interfaces so that developers can add Watson smarts into app designed to have voice, image and language recognition.
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