IBM’s Jeopardy!-winning computer to tackle health care industry

Vishal Ganesan Contributor
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Watson, IBM’s latest technological marvel, was first introduced to the public on the Jeopardy! game show. But after it decisively walloped 75-day champion Ken Jennings, the supercomputer set its sights on the health care industry.

In a press conference Tuesday, IBM announced its plans to retool Watson for the medical field, using it to streamline health care administration and give doctors a powerful new diagnostic tool.

IBM says Watson has the “ability to analyze the meaning and context of human language and quickly process information to find precise answers,” to revolutionize health care administration and diagnoses.

Dr. Herbert Chase, a professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University, explained during the press event that current diagnostic methods are time-consuming and prone to error. Thirty percent of medical errors are diagnostic mistakes, Chase said.

Because Watson can instantly access a patient’s medical history and the latest medical literature and drug studies, Chase thinks it could provide quick treatment recommendations, speeding up medical decisions and limiting unnecessary tests.

Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana GOP congressman and a medical doctor, praised IBM’s new technology but stressed that it can never be a substitute for the time doctors and nurses spends with their patients. (ASK MATT LABASH: Why iHate Steve Jobs/Apple products)

“The challenge of Watson is: How do you bring the computer power to the bedside?” Cassidy said.

While IBM does not claim Watson will solve all the problems facing America’s health care system, IBM Global Health Care and Life Sciences division general manager Dan Pelino argued that in the face of uncertain government funding, “the idea of the private sector standing tall in medical research is very important.”