IBM'S "Watson" computer to enter doctors' offices

Indiana-basead WellPoint to use technology in diagnosing patients


The computer that wowed America by competing on the game show Jeopardy is now being called a game changer for health care.

"Watson" is IBM's massive computer capable of analyzing 200 million pages of data and answering questions in less than three seconds. Now, that technology is moving from the entertainment industry to the healthcare industry. Tuesday, WellPoint made an announcement that it will partner with IBM to bring Watson into doctors' offices. 

The first phase will give nurses access to the massive database. The actual computer server is in Richmond, Virginia. Nurses will be able to access it through desktop or tablet computers when patients check in. The idea is to enter a patient's symptoms and medical history and to use Watson as a resource to point providers in the right direction.

"The physician will be able to take that information, present it to Watson, get that information back and then start the dialogue with the patient on both the diagnosis and the treatment and be able to interact with Watson as this tool," said Andrew Lang, WellPoint's Chief Information Officer.

Lang said the technology will pilot in clinics around the country starting in 2012. Researchers want to first use Watson in the oncology field, where treatment options are constantly changing and improving.

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