Healthcare pros enthusiastic about IBM Watson, despite hurdles

Hospitals and health systems across the country are using IBM's Watson--and so far healthcare leaders are enthusiastic about the system, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Thomas H. Davenport, a professor at Babson College in Massachusetts and research fellow at the MIT Center for Digital Business, spoke with people who have worked with the cognitive computing system, including leaders at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Mayo Clinic and more.

Some highlights from his report include:

  • Industry experts see Watson as the future of healthcare. Mark Kris, M.D., an oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering, said it's "the way medicine is going to be practiced."
  • It's a work in progress, and can be both difficult and time-draining. Sloane Kettering started its Watson oncology project in 2012--and it's still not finished.
  • The system requires many organizational changes, including network infrastructure, security controls, data sharing and reimbursement, Lynda Chin, M.D., of MD Anderson Cancer Center, told Davenport.
  • The amount of "cognitive application program interfaces" is growing, as is interest in those programs by users, including ones that help with image analysis and an English language dialog application.

"This is real and it's going to revolutionize cancer and other types of medical care. … It's clearly going to take some time to work out," Kris said.

There are myriad ways healthcare organizations have been using Watson, as FierceHealthIT has reported. Most recently, Manipal Hospitals in India started to use the cognitive computing system to create personalized treatments for cancer patients.

Watson also is helping Boston Children's Hospital better understand rare pediatric diseases; its being used by b Johnson & Johnson to create apps for consumers that will provide them with a virtual health coach; and medical students at Cleveland Clinic are tapping into it to analyze medical problems and develop evidence-based solutions.

To learn more:
- here's the WSJ report (subscription required)